Sometimes some dishes just don’t work. Don’t worry, I am not talking about the Moro-Locrio (Rice with Pork and Black Beans). This one actually did.
I love experimenting with food — isn’t that obvious? Inspiration for new recipes come from everywhere, and sometimes things work in my head much better than they turn out in reality. That is the part of food writing that few people see. The failures, be they small or spectacular, can be very disheartening.
But even from failure we can learn.
I found the nicest looking ripe plantains the other day, and I decided to make a new ripe plantain casserole. I patiently waited for the plantains to ripen to perfection (something Dominicans know by heart). I planned each ingredient, each amount in my head. I chose the perfect mold.
Time came and I lovingly assembled the ingredients. I carefully preheated the oven, greased the pan, cut the ingredients with OCD precision. Oh what a fantastic dish this would be. Alas, what came out of the oven was rather disappointing. It was edible alright, even somewhat attractive, but the texture was wrong, the flavors clashed dramatically with each other. Brought a tear to my eye, it did. But I think I know what went wrong, and I am trying again. You should expect another pastelón (casserole) in your near future.
There’s been many failures in these 14 years, but many worked after more than one try.
There’s a similar story to this dish. All went well, it tasted glorious; after all, this is something I can nearly cook with my eyes shut!
What didn’t work were the pictures, I have to admit that this is dish that is very hard to photograph. I had to make it three times, until I was reasonably satisfied. Luckily nobody seemed to complain about me cooking this over and over again. I bet they would have if the dish tasted like socks or something.
Thank goodness the successes are more frequent than the failures. Otherwise I would have quit doing this a long time ago.
I served this Moro-Locrio (Rice with Pork and Black Beans) for my in-laws in their last visit. They are much too polite –or too good poker players — to betray what they were thinking. It’s not everyday that Scandinavians encounter black rice with suspicious bits of animal in it. Luckily they have been eating my food for almost two decades and I have yet to kill anyone, so they dug in. And they loved it.
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (canola, peanut or corn)
- 2 lb [0.75 kg] of sliced smoked ham hock , cut into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon of dry thyme leaves , or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/8 cup of sliced pitted olives (optional)
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1/4 cup of diced bell or cubanelle pepper
- 1/8 cup of capers (optional)
- 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
- 4 cups of water in which the beans boiled
- 3 cups of rice
- 3 cups of soft-boiled black beans
- 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Heat oil in a 3 quart [3 lt] iron pot over high heat. Add ham hock and brown.
Lower heat to medium. Add garlic, cilantro, thyme, olives, oregano, bell pepper, capers. Stir while adding the tomato sauce.
Add beans, also while stirring. Add water and bring to the boil. Season with the salt.
Add the rice and stir regularly to avoid excessive sticking. Make sure to remove the rice that sticks to the bottom.
When the water has evaporated cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.
Uncover and stir.
Cover again another 5 minutes. After this the rice should be firm but tender inside. If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes over very low heat (if at this point the rice feels a bit raw, add 1/4 cup of water before stirring and covering again).
Serve with salad and braised meat of your choice.
This version of the moro-locrio is meant to be served with stewed meat, or vegetables with abundant sauce. The ham hock lends a lot of flavor, but rather little meat.
If you want, you can use another smoked pork cut with bones (like chops).