Pork Black and Bean Stew (Frijol Con Puerco)

If you’re looking for something different from the usual, try this Pork Black and Bean Stew! It’s spicy, comforting, and definitely hits the spot when it’s cold outside.

Not only is the stew pretty easy to make - the pork almost does the braising itself, but it’s a great way to get in your serving of beans for the week! Beans pack in tons of folate and have a bunch of fiber to boot! Not a bad way to balance out a meat stew.

I like my Mexican food spicy - so I used Spiceology’s sweet and spicy habanero blend. It’s super yummy and builds flavor that is different, and in my opinion, more rich than just using cayenne. You can make this stew as spicy or as mild as you like it. It’s going to turn out good no matter what.

Pork Black and Bean Stew (Frijol Con Puerco)

Time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Saveur

Ingredients
2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2" cubes
1⁄2 cup canola oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp Spiceology habanero powder, or more to taste
2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight
4 sprigs epazote or cilantro
1 lb. plum tomatoes, cored
1 medium jalapeño
2 baby radishes, very thinly sliced, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions
Season pork on all sides salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add pork to the pan, and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a plate. Cover and set aside.

Add two-thirds of the garlic, the habanero powder, and one-quarter of the onions to pan, and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes.

Return pork to pot along with beans, epazote, and 8 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans and pork are tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and jalapeño, and cook, turning as needed, until blackened all over, about 12 minutes. Allow jalapeño to cool. Stem and remove seeds if desired.

Transfer tomatoes and jalapeño to a blender along with remaining garlic and onions, and purée until sauce is smooth.

Return skillet to heat and add remaining oil; when the oil is hot, add sauce, and fry, stirring constantly, until sauce is slightly reduced, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and keep tomato sauce warm.

To serve, transfer beans and pork to a large, deep serving platter and drizzle with tomato sauce. Top with radishes and cilantro leaves, and serve with rice and lime wedges.


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Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Ropa de Vieja is one of Cuba’s national dishes and is hands-down, a seriously delicious beef stew with bell peppers and tomatoes. The dish translates to “old clothes” because after hours of cooking, the flank steak’s stringiness looks a lot like clothing that’s been worn a little too long! 

My friend (and future cousin-in-law!) asked that I come up with my own version, since it’s one of her favorite recipes that her Cuban grandmother and aunt would make for dinner during her childhood summers in Miami. She provided a little history on the dish and requested that I make one without MSG (yay!). I can only hope she approves. If she does, she claims I’ll be an honorary Cuban. I’ll just have to keep an eye out when I make it for her, since I heard she used to sneak spoonfuls behind her abuela's and tía’s backs! 

For those familiar with the recipe, if you’re wondering where the “de” comes from, my friend’s aunt insists on it! Apparently she has amazing attention to detail, and that’s something I can totally get behind. 

In my version, I decided to convert the traditional recipe to a slow cooker because it usually takes a few hours on the stovetop, and I wanted to see if the slow cooker could make this recipe a  weeknight-possibility without compromising the flavor! It totally worked. No pressure cooker? Save this one for a weeknight and stew the meat for a few hours, until it's beyond tender!

While my recipe is pretty authentic, especially served with Cuban rice, beans, and fried plantains, I’ll admit I added a little red wine, which may make it a little less traditional, but also makes it oh-so-tasty! Feel free to add more broth or water if you want to be even more authentic. The stew would be phenomenal either way!

Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Time: 45 Minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
1.5 lbs flank steak
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup dry red wine
1 (15 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, halved

To Serve
Cuban Rice
Fried plantains
Canned black beans

Directions
Pat steak dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a 6-quart pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add steak and brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes. Set steak aside. 

Add an additional 1 tbsp oil in the pressure cooker over medium high heat and stir in onions, garlic, bell peppers and sauté until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, cumin, and paprika and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. 

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, and bay leaf to the pressure cooker. Simmer for 2 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Return steak and any accumulated juices to the cooker. Cover and secure pressure cooker with lid and increase heat to high. Once the pressure cooker whistles over high pressure, reduce the pressure to low and cook for 25 minutes. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool before removing lid.

Reheat the stew uncovered over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in vinegar and olives and simmer for 5 minutes to allow flavors to combine. 

Serve stew over Cuban rice with fried plantains and black beans on the side.

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Persian Lamb & Celery Stew (Khoresht-e Karafs)

Khorest-e Karafs, or Karafs for short, is a Lamb & Celery Stew that is ridiculously good. It’s Adrian’s favorite Persian stew hands down and definitely a close contender to my favorite Persian stew, Gormeh Sabzi, with lamb, kidney beans, and fenugreek. 

Adrian and I have been making karafs for 8 years now thanks to his aunt Fatteneh who has taken it upon herself to pass down the Assassi family recipes to future generations. While Fattaneh lives in Australia, we’re fortunately able to connect with her every other year or so when she flies out to Santa Barbara for the holidays. When she does, we love nothing more than catching up with her life in Australia AND soaking up every second that she spends in Adrian’s dad’s kitchen.

Back when we first learned how to make karafs, I followed Fattaneh around like a detective and questioning her almost like she was a criminal. “Fatteneh, what did you just add to the pot?!” super worried I was about to miss something for my handwritten recipe. Then she’d tell me, “it’s just a bit of turmeric, salt, and pepper.” “How much?” I’d ask, always one to quantify things.

Since then, we've mastered how to make Abgoosht, Gourmeh Sabzi, Bademjan, Fesenjoon, and a couple different dips and desserts.  Bademjan and Fesenjoon are definitely next for the blog, but I bet you'd give anything for Fattaneh's incredible eggplant and garlic dip, but you're going to have to be wait!

Below is a picture from our first trial of karafs in 2008. My food photography is a little (A LOT) better now, haha.

Back in 2008, Fattaneh was a superstar as far as her patience was concerned because I really did ask a lot of questions. I personally know that pesky questions can be more than a little annoying when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, so I'm beyond grateful for sharing her knowledge and talents with us! Fortunately now, we have this recipe down to a T, and I’m so excited to share it with you today!

I've pretty much transcribed everything I wrote down from Fattaneh’s cooking lesson in the recipe below. I’ve gone back every year or so to rewrite it for clarity, and revalidated it when we were cooking with Fattaneh this last Christmas. But if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense, or could be said better, be sure to send me a message! 

Persian Lamb and Celery Stew (Khorest-e Karafs)


Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 cup canola oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
1 ¼ lb boneless lamb shoulder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 medium bunch celery
1 bunch flat leat parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried mint leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp tomato paste

To Serve
Steamed basmati rice
Toasted pita bread or lavash

Sabzi (Persian Salad)
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1” pieces
1 bunch radishes, halved
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch tarragon leaves

Directions
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat ¾ cup oil on high heat and add onions, sautéing until golden brown. Add lamb pieces and stir. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and stir until lamb is a pinkish brown. Add water to lamb level and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat ⅓ cup oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat and add celery pieces. Fry until coated generously with oil, about 3-4 minutes, but do not let celery get soft. Add celery to the stew while it continues to simmer and cover. To the same sauté pan, add parsley and more oil if needed, and fry until cooked down, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint. Add mixture to stew. Cover and simmer until lamb is tender, about 30 more minutes.

Once lamb is tender, add lemon juice and tomato paste and simmer until the stew has reduced appropriately, about 10-20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste.

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West African Chicken & Peanut Stew: Chicken Mafé

I was speaking with a new friend I made from France recently and we exchanged what he and his family were both cooking up for dinner. He told me he was having mafé, a stew made of lamb and peanut butter, but the dish didn’t register in my foodie brain. What?! A West African staple? A national dish of Senegal? How could I not know this?

As it turns out, I made a similar stew several years ago thanks to Carla Hall of Top Chef and The Chew fame. She called it Groundnut Stew and made it with chicken instead. It was SCRUMPTIOUS, but much more of a challenge to make, and actually a little bit different with adzuki beans and a pureed consistency. 

So have I heard of mafé? Sort of, but I didn’t realize how many variations there were of this dish, with different proteins and vegetables, like cassava, okra, turnips, squash, or even eggplant in place of the potatoes and yams. And in cooking this dish, I realize that with ten years of cooking under my belt, often international cuisine, it’s so amazing to still be able to cook different things and to know that there are different dishes I’ve never even heard of have never even fully recognized. I’m SO looking forward to the next 10 years of my cooking journey and can’t wait to keep sharing it with you! 

Below is my recipe for mafé with chicken. I was really tempted to make it with lamb, but I just had lamb the other day, and wanted to take it easy on the red meat for the rest of the week. Lamb mafé is definitely on the menu down the road! 

West African Chicken & Peanut Stew: Chicken Mafé 

Time: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes (+ Overnight Marinade)
Serves 8

Ingredients
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1 lb skin-on chicken drumsticks
4 tbsp garlic, finely chopped, divided
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 Scotch bonnet chili, or habanero pepper, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 birdseye chili peppers, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
4 tablespoons fish sauce
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
¼ cup lemon juice
2.5 cups cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 small cabbage)
1.5 cups carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 5 small carrots)
1 medium yam or sweet potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large boiling potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
Steamed rice or couscous, to serve

To Garnish
1 Vine ripe tomato, chopped
3 birdseye chilies, finely chopped
2 limes, cut into 8 wedges

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, add chicken thighs and drumsticks. Season with salt and pepper and rub with 2 tbsp of garlic, ginger, and scotch bonnet or habenero chili (using gloves!). Marinate overnight.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, 2 tbsp garlic, and birdseye chilies. Season with kosher salt to taste, and cook, stirring until onion is soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add thyme, tomato paste, and fish sauce, and simmer, stirring to combine, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, and the chicken thighs and drumsticks. Bring back to a simmer and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Slowly stir in peanut butter, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Once the sauce has reduced some and the chicken has cooked through, add add lemon juice, cabbage and carrots, and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add yams and potatoes, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, until the oil begins to separate and the sauce has reduced.

Serve stew over steamed rice or couscous. Garnish with birdseye chilies, tomatoes, and a wedge of lime. Adjust seasonings as needed.

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