Cooking with Mom: Pabellón Part 2 – Black Beans

The next major component of the Pabellón are the caraotas negras - black beans. Like her carne mechada, my mom’s black beans are fantastic; and like the carne mechada, while it takes a while to cook a pot of beans, they aren’t particularly complicated to make.  Actually, this dish is even easier.  

The art in this dish is all in preparing the sofrito.  A sofrito is a flavor base you’ll see it a lot in Latin American cooking. It usually consists of diced tomatoes, onions, and garlic that are sautéed and seasoned.  You’ll notice we already used it in the carne mechada as well.   After you make your sofrito, you just add the black beans, kick back, relax and let ‘em stew.  

Caraotas Negras
(Black Beans)

For the Sofrito

2 to 3 Onions (minced)
4 Garlic cloves (crushed)
3 tomatoes (diced)
1 to 2 Bouillon cubes
Salt to taste
Pepper 1/2 tsp.
Cumin powder 1 to 2 tsp.
1 Tsp brown sugar
Cooking oil (enough to cook the above ingredients)

3 (15 oz) cans Black Beans


Sauté all of the above ingredients in a large pot until they are saucy (about 15-20 min.)

Add the black beans and simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Adjust the seasonings to your individual taste. 


Cooking time here is a matter of textural preference.  You want to leave it on for at least an hour so that the flavors have a chance to blend and develop, but after that it’s just a matter of how much liquid you like and how firm you want your beans.  I tend to like my beans really soft and I like the liquid to be between a thick stew consistency to nearing that of refried beans, so I usually leave them on for a few hours.

If you also like them soft, the one warning I have is to keep an eye on the temperature.  I recently made a batch, and not being completely adjusted to the intensity of the burners on my new NYC stove, I scorched the bottom a bit. Nonetheless, besides the very bottom, the rest of the pot was perfectly fine and had acquired a slightly smoky flavor, which I actually really liked. I may try adding bacon from now on to achieve a similar effect.

If you’re in the mood for black bean soup, just leave them on for less time and adjust the level of liquid to your liking with additional water or stock.

If you prefer a firmer bean, likewise leave them on for less time and you might also experiment with using dried beans that you’ve pre-soaked.

Slow Cooker Method:
This is another easy recipe to adapt to a slow cooker –and it eliminates the possibility of scorching. 

Prepare the sofrito in a sauté pan on the stove.  Once all the veggies are cooked and soft, transfer to a slow cooker and incorporate the black beans.  Cook on high for at least an hour. If you plan to leave them cooking overnight or during the workday, you can leave the slow cooker set on low. 

The slow cooker takes all the guesswork out of this recipe. Since it starts with canned beans, the cooking process is really just to allow the flavors to develop, so you really can’t undercook the beans, and the slow cooker won’t allow you to overcook them either. It’s pretty foolproof.

The problem I usually run into is that I often prepare the black beans and the carne mechada on the same day and I only have one slow cooker, so one has to go to the stovetop. However, if you have the foresight, this is a great make-ahead dish because it tastes even better the second day.

Pabellón complete with carne mechada, carotas, arepas, rice, and cheese. I also recommend adding avocado.
Arepas are up next.

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