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TIP OF THE DAY: Moros y Cristianos, Cuban Rice & Beans

Disclaimer: This is a traditional recipe based on a historical event. It is not a commentary on any religion or ethnicity.

Why the disclaimer? The recipe is Moros y Cristianos, a dish commemorating the Islamic Conquest of Spain by Moors in the early 8th century, the ongoing wars between the two sides and the subsequent Reconquista by Spanish Christians in the 15th century.
 
WHAT IS “MOROS Y CRISTIANOS?”

Moros y Cristianos means “Moors and Christians” and refers to the popular white rice and black beans dish of Cuba. It was inspired by historic events that are commemorated annually with battle re-enactments across the southern coast of Spain.

Platillo Moros y Cristianos is a staple served at virtually every Cuban restaurant and home. It is the Cuban version of the rice and beans dishes that are consumed throughout the Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, and in the southern United States. It can be simply called arroz moro, moros, moro or congrí.

The black beans, or Moros, represent the darker-skinned Moors; the rice, Cristianos, represents the lighter-skinned Spaniards. They are simmered together or separately with herbs and vegetables: a sofrito* of bay leaf, bell pepper, garlic, onions and oregano. Bacon can also be added.

This nicely seasoned side is often served with grilled or roasted meat, poultry and seafood. It’s a good party dish, too: It can be made well in advance and be served at room temperature.
 
MOROS VS. CONGRÍ: THE DIFFERENCE

In the traditionally preparation, the Moros and Cristianos are prepared separately; they don’t meet up until they’re placed side by side on the plate. In the variation called Congrí, the rice and beans are cooked together†.

These days, many cooks make the rice and beans together Congrí-style, but call it Moros y Cristianos.

There’s no need to split hairs. Both methods work fine, although Steve Sando, the proprietor of Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans who has cooked bean dishes in every way possible, prefers “the sharper, more distinct flavors the old-fashioned technique delivers.”

We’ll start with his recipe, and follow with a very quick version from Kraft.
 
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*Sofrito is the Spanish version of mirepoix, a chopped vegetable mix that is cooked in oil or butter to add flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stocks. Similar flavor bases include the Italian soffritto and the Portuguese refogado. Depending on the country, ingredients can include bell peppers, carrots, celeriac, celery, onions, and seasonings; refogado includes tomatoes. Cajun and Creole cuisines use what is called the “holy trinity”: onions, celery and bell peppers.

†The beans are first boiled in water; the rice is cooked in another pot with some of the water from the beans. The cooked ingredients are combined with a flavorful sofrito (see footnote above).

   
Moros y Cristianos

Moros y Cristianos

Moros y Cristianos

Top photo of Moros y Cristianos courtesy Savoir Faire Los Placeres Del Paladar. Center: Side-by-side Moros y Cristianos from HeartOfWisdom.com. Bottom: A creative side-by-side from Fictionique.com.

 
RECIPE: MOROS Y CRISTIANOS (MOORS & CHRISTIANS RICE & BEANS)

This traditional recipe from Rancho Gordo adds another layer of flavor from bacon. Visit RanchoGordo.com for an exquisite selection of heirloom beans, spices and dazzling bean recipes.

Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 4 slices lean bacon, chopped
  • Olive oil, if needed
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder (see note‡)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups cooked black beans in their broth
  • Salt
  • 1½ cups hot cooked white rice
  •  
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    ‡You can buy New Mexican Red Chile Powder from Rancho Gordo as well as from McCormick. New Mexican Red Chile Powder, also simply called red chile powder, is made from hot red chiles that have been dried and ground. It should not be confused with chili powder, a mixed spice for making chili. If you don’t have red chile powder, substitute cayenne pepper or the milder paprika.

     

    Moros y Cristianos Recipe
    Easy Moros y Cristianos from Kraft. It saves time by using canned beans. The recipe is below.
     

    Preparation

    1. GENTLY COOK the bacon in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked through, about 10 minutes. You should have about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. If there is less, add olive oil as needed until you have 2 tablespoons of fat.

    2. ADD the onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook gently, stirring occasionally until the bell pepper is soft, about 8 minutes. Add the red chile powder and oregano and stir until incorporated. Add the beans and their broth and stir gently until mixed.

    3. COOK over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.

    4. TO SERVE: Spoon some of the rice and the beans alongside each other on each individual plate. Serve immediately.
     

     

    RECIPE: QUICK MOROS Y CRISTIANOS

    This quick recipe, from Kraft, uses canned black beans. You can save even more time by using precooked frozen rice.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, total time 20 minutes.

    Ingredients For 6 Half-Cup Servings

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and black pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COOK the bacon, onions and garlic in large skillet on medium-high heat until the bacon is crisp.

    2. STIR in the rice, the beans with their liquid, and the oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to boil.

    3. REDUCE the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
      




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