At its core, a meal of frijoles needs nothing more than cooked seasoned red beans and rice, but from there it can grow in many directions. The greatest bean dinner is a fast-worthy plate called the bandeja paisa, and it reminds me of a full British breakfast in its makeup and extensive application of fried foods. Beans, rice, arepas, fried green or black plantains, avocado, a thin slice of grilled steak, deep fried pork rinds (known as chicharrones), a chorizo or two, a side of ají to sauce everything up, and a fried egg to top it off.
- 1 pound large dried red beans (kidney beans work fine)
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- To Serve (all optional):
- Sliced Avocado
- Fried sweet or starchy plantains
- Fried Eggs
- Grilled skirt steak
Place beans in a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cover with cold water by 6 inches and allow to sit at room temperature overnight. If using a pressure cooker, this step can be skipped.
The next day, drain beans and set aside. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or pressure cooker over high heat until shimmering. Add pork belly and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-browned and crisped on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Add tomatoes and onions and cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add beans, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover with water by 2 to 3 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary, until beans are completely softened and liquid is thickened but still soupy, about 3 hours. (If using a pressure cooker, cook on high pressure until beans are tender, about 45 minutes).
Season beans to taste with more salt and sugar and serve with cooked rice, avocado, plantains, fried eggs, steak, and ají as desired.