A bowl of black beans with some rice, bread, or greens is a meal in itself, but it's also a side dish to round out about any meal. The trick, if you could call it that, is to stick to dried beans that can slowly release their starch into the cooking liquid, and use a balance of aromatics to enhance their flavor. In this recipe, that's garlic, onion, and a whole orange—juice, hull, and all, for a subtle floral citrus character.
Why this recipe works:
- Slowly simmering dried beans releases their starch for a rich, creamy, fat-free gravy.
- Simmering, but not sautéeing aromatics draws out their flavor while letting earthy beans take the lead.
- A whole orange brings a sublte citrus brightness and bitterness to the beans.
- Yield:Serves 6 to 8 as a side
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:2 to 3 hours
- 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
- 8 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced in half, with enough of the root end intact that the onion doesn't fall apart
- 1 juicing orange, rinsed and sliced in half
- Kosher salt
Place beans in a large pot and add water until beans are submerged by 3 to 4 inches. Add the garlic and onion, squeeze in orange juice, then add the squeezed orange halves. Cover and place over high heat until water comes to a boil, then uncover pot and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook until beans are completely tender and creamy, 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, and adding water if tops of beans become exposed.
Remove orange and onion halves. Increase heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced to a thick, creamy sauce that clings to the beans, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve over rice or as a side with fresh cilantro and a dash or two of hot sauce.