Food, Glorious, Food and Cuba

The floor sanders were supposed to be here today, but they had to finish up at another job site. I feel conflicted. On the one hand, we really want them to do their thing and get outta here so we can move in to the master bedroom and furnish the dining room. We want to clean up the house and finally move in already! But, with no workers creating dust and banging around, I'm enjoying a day of cooking in our peaceful, quiet kitchen. I've decided to make some Cuban Black Beans for later in the week. And for dinner I'm making that chicken dish from Canal House Cooks Every Day that I mentioned in the last blog post. Here is my family recipe for black beans. Try it and let me know how it went:

 Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans)

Beans, before and after. They came out great, if I do say so myself! 


Carefully sort through 1 1/2 lbs. of black beans, picking out any stray rocks and broken beans. Rinse them well. Put beans in a large pot and cover them with water by 3". Add a bay leaf, 1 tspdried oregano (I like to use Mexican oregano) and 1 tbsp. olive oil. Bring to a boil on high, then reduce the heat to low and simmer them for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

In the last 1/2 hour of cooking the beans I make a sofrito: heat olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add 12-16 finely chopped scallions, 8 small cloves garlic, minced and one small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped. Add 1-2 tbsp. cumin and sauté, stirring often until everything is softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper

After the beans have soften add the sofrito to them and stir. Simmer beans for 15 minutes more. Adjust seasoning as needed. At this point my Abuela (grandma) and Tia (aunt) taught me to add 2 things to the finished beans: about a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of vinegar (I use sherry vinegar.) You'll be amazed how it balances out the flavors. 

These are ready to eat, but taste better the next day. I serve them over rice especially if I've made Picadillo! (Picadillo is stewed ground beef with peppers, onions, garlic, tomato, olives, raisins and spices.) I'll post that recipe soon, too.


Chicken Roasted Over Potatoes and Lemon (from Canal House Cooks Every Day)

This is one of those recipes that's as satisfying to make as it is to eat.


Place one oven rack in the upper third and the other one in the middle of your oven. Preheat to 475 degrees.

Take a 3-4 lbs. chicken and, using poultry shears, cut the back bone out of the chicken. (I freeze the back bone and use it when I make stock.) Rinse under cold water and dry well. Lay the chicken skin side up on a sheet pan flattening it with your hands (you may need to cut the cartilage a bit between the breasts) and tuck wings under or snip them off. Rub about 1 tbsp. (I use more than that) olive oil over the bird, salt and pepper it. Then dust it with about 1/2 tsp. pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika). Rub to massage all the seasonings. Set aside at room temperature.

For the potatoes, put 6 medium waxy potaotes, sliced into 1/4" thick rounds (you don't have to peel them) into a large bowl. Add 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded and the leaves of 8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything gently with your hands. Spread the potatoes and lemons out in a roasting pan, drizzling the last of the olive oil from the bowl over them. 

Carefully place the potatoes on the bottom rack of the preheated oven and the chicken, breast side up with the legs pointing to the back of the oven, directly on the upper oven rack over the potatoes. (This is the part that surprised me a bit when I went to make it for the first time: you cook the chicken directly on your oven rack. But it all comes together as the bird drips its juices on the potatoes and lemons, basting them as they cook.) Close the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 400 degrees and continue roasting everything for another 20 minutes or so. The potatoes should be tender and the chicken perfectly roasted by then, but cook a bit longer if needed.

Carefully lift the chicken off the rack and place it in the pan with the potatoes. You may have to pry the chicken loose from the rack in places. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with the potatoes and lemon.   

BACK TO THE RENO: More Floor Refinishing!

Dinner was a success and it was nice to have a day off from a whirlwind of noise and dust to relax and enjoy it. Gavin McKinney arrived bright and early the following morning to sand the dining room and bedroom floors, as well as the pie staircase. These are the only direct routes into our kitchen, so it will be "land-locked" from the rest of the house for a few days. In order to get to the kitchen we will have to go out the front door, walk around the side of the house to the back yard, tread up some wood planks (our back step-out porch will be installed soon) and enter the kitchen through the back door. If you walk the towpath in Lambertville, you might see this awkward set-up.

As it happened, Gavin finished in 4 days, which really wasn't so bad. We decided to bring the ebony into the dining room so that it would flow from the front of the house. In the bedroom and pie staircase we wanted natural wood, but didn't want orange pine floors. We decided to have Gavin darken them a little to tone them down. They look wonderful.

The floors in the bedroom look great with the sun streaming in from the back windows.


We can walk on the floors now, but have to wait for 2 weeks for them to properly cure before moving any furniture into these rooms. We're looking forward to bringing in our Rhodes Dining Table by Vanguard Furniture and our Ada Dining Chairs by Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams so we can start having people over. We're also thinking of doing three of these on the long wall in the dining room. It's kind of unexpected for a dining room and we think it will warm up the room nicely. What do you think? As far as our master bedroom goes...we're very eager to move in. It's a fantastic space and we have some different design ideas we want to try out. Until next week...