Sinister and rather sullen looking, the Yucatecans’ Arroz Negro is cooked in the broth of the local black beans, frijoles negros, which gives it a wonderfully earthy, mellow flavour. The colour is frankly muddy rather than actual black but do not let this put you off as once you taste it, you will forget about its appearance. The rice is a very traditional accompaniment to much Yucatecan cuisine, in particular the Frijol con Puerco or Beans with Pork, where the colour combination of mud and brown is even less appealing!
The main drawback to making Arroz Negro is that you need black bean broth. It is also essential that the broth itself is substantial, thick and deep, not thin and watery. If you cook it in a light broth, ie before the beans have really released their velvet, the rice will be beige or pale brown and rather insipid. The broth therefore needs to come from beans which have been cooking for at least a couple of hours, thereby having the time to become concentrated and dense. So the first step to making Arroz Negro is to cook some black beans in not too much water and strain them, reserving the broth. Then you can make another dish with the beans, such as Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos) or Molotes a la Veracruzana; or you can then return the beans to the pot, add more water and continue to cook them until they have created more broth – at which stage you can make them into Enfrijoladas perhaps or the traditional partner to the rice, Frijol con Puerco.
A Mexican cook would obviously use polished white rice but whole brown rice works equally well and has more flavour and health benefits.
Yucatecan Black Rice – Arroz Negro Yucateco
30 ml/2 tbsp olive oil
50 g/2 oz onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
175 g/6 oz long grain brown rice (I like basmati)
250 ml/8 fl oz/2 cups black bean broth, heated until steaming
5 ml/1 tsp fine sea salt
Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden. Add the rice and stir-fry for five minutes. Pour in the broth, sprinkle in the salt and give it all a good stir. Turn the heat right down, cover the pan and simmer very gently for 50 minutes.
Remove from the heat and fluff the rice up with a skewer. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
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