Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sonia's Potaje de Frijoles Colorados (Sonia's Red Bean Stew)

This is another hardy, nutritious, and delicious Cuban bean stew. Red beans are married with meat, chorizo, orange fleshed squash, potatoes, kicked up with a cuban sofrito, and some spices. Comfort food served over rice or with bread :)

Something I probably haven't admitted to my readers is that I generally don't like red beans when prepared AS a STEW or SOUP.. I eat them fine but in my opinion there's this very subtle earthy mustiness I dislike about them... the only times I truly enjoy them is in "Congri Oriental" (red beans and rice) and "Congri Con Coco" (coconut red beans and rice) as well as in the form of the central American "Frijoles Rojos Volteados" (pureed, and refried red beans which is a type of savory thick red bean paste, something i have yet to post and it delicious). I do however prepare red bean stews in my house occasionally, but am never satisfied, and my parents and family aren't much fans (except for my grandmother) I generally make them out of "tradition" as in to "not lose the dish" and for variety.

HOWEVER and it's a big HOWEVER Sonia R. Martinez has changed my mind with her version of this traditional Cuban red bean stew, I consider Sonia R. Martinez a friend, and a role model, she is a cuban woman originally from Cienfuegos, Cuba now residing in Hawaii, she is Cookbook author and freelance food writer, has a food & garden blog at and has other writings at as well as being the contributing writer to and monthly columnist for

What makes Sonia's red bean stew so special? Well for one I fell in love with it, because it doesn't have that earthy mustiness I'm used to in red bean stews, I think her secret to cleansing the beans of this taste is by kissing the beans with a touch of dry sherry and vinegar, it gives the beans a deep-complex taste, a sharpness that I love, yet doesn't over power the flavors of everything else. The other secret may be the use of fresh diced tomatoes. Either way they are delicious, I highly suggest if you are looking for a red bean stew recipe GIVE THIS ONE A TRY, trust me it will be a hit at your house :)


-1 lbs (2 cups) small dried red beans
-water (enough to submerge beans about 2 inches deep)
-1 bay leaf
-1 1/2 lbs. smoked ham, beef, or pork stew meat cut into 1 inch pieces
-2 small or 1/2 a large spanish chorizo sliced
-1/4- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 large onion minced
-1 green bell pepper minced
-6 cloves of garlic minced
-2 medium or small tomatoes diced (I'm sure canned tomatoes can work)
-1 tablespoon red wine, balsamic, or white vinegar (your choice I used balsamic)
-1/2 cup dry sherry or white wine
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
-2-3 medium potatoes cut into 1-2 inch chunks
-1 lbs. calabaza (I used 1 lb. banana squash, butternut, hubbard, kabucha, and carribean squash will work fine) cut into 1-2 inch cubes
-salt to taste
(1) Soak beans over night, first wash beans, cover about 1-2 inches deep in water, bring to a boil 20 minutes, turn off heat and allow to soak overnight.

(2) Next day bring to a boil, add bay leave meat or chunks of smoked ham, spanish chorizo, and bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat to medium low for about 1 1/2- 2 hours or until beans are tender.

(3) While beans are cooking prepare the sofrito, sautee onions and bell pepper in olive oil on medium high until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes, add garlic sautee another 3 minutes until fragrant, add diced tomato sautee another minute, add oregano and cumin stir 30 seconds, and finally stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar then add the dry sherry or white wine. Allow everything to cook on medium high heat for 10 minutes until wine and vinegar reduce significantly. Turn off heat set a side.
(4) When beans are tender add the sofrito (meaning the sautee you just made) to the tender meat and beans, stir well, add chunks or calabaza and potato. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat, then lower heat to medium low and cover simmer for about 20- 30 minutes until calabaza and potato are tender.

(5) Enjoy! Serve over rice or in a large bowl with bread. If you wish a nice salad would go well with this.
Here's the stew sitting over a delicious mountain of fluffy white rice :)
Sonia let me know that for her version of this traditional Cuban red bean stew, if Spanish Chorizo isn't available Keilbasa sausage may be used. Also in my opinion if Spanish Chorizo can't be found where you live I have had success with dishes using any variety of Lousiana type suasages, like Louisiana hot links.

If your interested in this recipe you may be interested in:

(1) Sopa de Frijoles Colorados (red bean soup) I make this soup with large red kidney beans, I prepare that one more simple, as in it is not a stand alone meal, I serve it over rice with other meat dishes and make it when I don't want one stand alone hardy red bean stew, but still want to cook red beans :)

(2) Tata's Potaje de Frijoles Colorados this one is my grandmother's version, but I prefer Sonia's :)

I almost forgot to add that when these hot bean stews are served over rice (specifically more often than not red or black bean soups and stews) we like to sometimes eat it with small slices of regular banana or those miniature bananas. Like we will but the stew over fluffy white rice and place small slices of banana on top and spoon a little of the thick red bean or black bean broth over it and eat it together YUMMY! Those are the very home-style comforting things you won't see outside Cuban homes and will not find in any restaurant :)