Curried Cubanos with mojo, baby

What should be done with leftover curried roast chicken?  I’m still not sure why the answer turned out to be Curried Cubanos. I know, it should have been velvet butter chicken, but we have had a glut of curried chicken in the past few weeks. I was sick of chicken leftovers in quesadillas and chicken salad and even though I love chicken enchiladas, there is way too much prep to build them on a Tuesday night. Considering that the chicken was, in fact, curried, almost anything not Indian would be weird.  I was in the mood for a Cubano with Mojo* anyway. Even one with an incongruous Indian accent.

Cubanos with Mojo? (I have to say that looks really funny to me. I can’t write about mojo and not think of Austin Powers – even if they aren’t actually pronounced the same way) Anyway, this recipe for pork Cubano sandwiches from Fine Cooking uses a mojo to perk up the flavor. Although I have to say, that the curry from the leftover roast chicken probably contributed more mojo than the actual mojo did.  Which is not to say that the curry worked brilliantly – I kept thinking: Curried Cubanos…really?! I don’t know…as I was eating them, not ever being entirely convinced. Still, the kids liked them; we liked them. In terms of whether or not I might make them again, and for whom, well, I might serve them to my sister but never to her husband. I just don’t think he would approve.

With the Cubanos we had Black Bean Soup.   It has been at least a year since the last time I made Black Bean Soup. I had been following the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe.  I often turn to this book, especially for basic renditions of ethnic foods. They do a pretty good job of transforming supermarket fundamentals into things like pho and pappa al pomodoro which are a lot more fun than macaroni and cheese or broiled chicken breasts as midweek fare.

That being said, their black bean soup recipe stinks. Really. Their recipe stopped me from making Black Bean Soup at all. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why it was so terrible. They start with all the right ingredients. First, they cook the beans with a ham hock. Then, adding soffrito with red pepper, garlic and herbs. The weird part is that they finish the soup with this cornstarch slurry, promising to keep the soup nice and black and thickening without pureeing too many of the beans. It doesn’t work at all and there were a lot of extra steps.

What I realized when I went back to look at the recipe though, is that they expect the soup to be done in just 2 1/2 hours!  And that’s without soaking the beans.  No way is that going to work. What I have come to realize is you just can’t rush beans. Not black beans anyway. Thickening the soup with cornstarch is a cheater’s method. Black bean soup should be basic and easy going. It requires nothing more than a little planning.  10-15 minutes worth of work will give you back three days of deliciousness.  You don’t want to go messing around with a 3 part recipe to get an inferior soup with a lot of extra work. No. Soak your beans ahead of time and this soup materializes practically out of thin air! I read a bunch of recipes and cobbled this recipe together. This black bean soup is the color of the deepest chocolate. It has a velvety consistency and a gentle, easy, burn. You won’t break a sweat pulling it together.  Count on at least 3 hours of simmering though and on soaking the beans.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 lb black beans, picked over and soaked overnight in a large bowl. The water should cover the beans by at least 2 inches
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • A 2 inch chunk of salt pork
  • 1 quart chicken broth, boxed is fine – I like Pacific brand
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained of their juice and cut up.  (I like to do this right in the can with my kitchen scissors as I learned from Laurie Colwin in her book Home Cooking, which I love)
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cumin
  • 2 or more minced cloves garlic
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, more to taste

Grated cheese, chopped green or red onion, sour cream or greek yogurt for garnish

  1. 3 hours before dinner Put the chopped onion, the olive oil and the piece of salt pork in a large enameled cast iron pot or a heavy bottomed soup pot and turn on the heat to low.  Put the lid on the pot and cook 12-15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times.  You don’t want the mixture to get crisp or brown, just to gently soften.
  2. Add the beans, the stock and the water and simmer for an hour or so until the beans are soft.
  3. 2 hours before dinner Add the tomatoes, cumin, garlic,chili flakes and salt.
  4. Leave to very gently simmer for a long long time – about 2 hours.  If you put it on a flame tamer and you are feeling brave you can run an errand or pick up the kids from school.  This makes me a little nervous but I still do it.  I would use a flame tamer though.  It would be very sad to scorch this wonderful soup.

Curried Cubanos

If you have leftover roast pork in the fridge, use that and you won’t have to make excuses about the curry.

Mojo

  • 1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro
  1. Mash salt into the garlic with the back of your chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle.
  2. Transfer to a small bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes

The sandwiches

  • 4 oval shaped subs or bulky rolls, split, not too crusty
  • 3 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 6 oz leftover curried chicken
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced ham
  • 4 slices swiss cheese
  • 2 dill pickles, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  1. Heat a sandwich press or use a grill pan heated over medium heat.
  2. Brush the inside of the rolls with the mojo and mustard.
  3. Stack the bottom part with equal amounts of pork, ham cheese and pickles.
  4. Top each sandwich with upper half and brush top with the butter
  5. Place in press or on grill pan.  If using grill pan, weight sandwiches with a plate with cans set on top.  Flip sandwich when bottom side is browned. Brown each side and let the cheese melt.

Since I had leftover chicken anyway, this menu was a breeze.  I soaked the beans after dinner the night before and started the soup at about 1:30 pm the following day, when the little guy started his nap.  I spent about 15 minutes on it, about 5 of those minutes at 1:30 and 10 at 2:30.  I didn’t do anything else with dinner until 5:15.  We were eating by 5:45, and that included heating up the panini press.

*Mojo: In Cuban cooking mojo applies to any sauce that is made with garlic, olive oil and a citrus juice, traditionally sour orange juice. It is used to marinate roast pork or plantains.

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One response to “Curried Cubanos with mojo, baby

  1. Maureen Byrne

    Never before have black bean soup and “toasties” as we call ’em here, in Ireland, looked SOOO good to me. I was so inspired that i went out and bought a sandwich press on Saturday, and have been eating them for lunch ever since, my favorite being roasted red pepper, with soft goats cheese and basil leaves. I agree that soup is a lunch meal, but with cubanos, ta da…we have a dinner. I bought my dried black beans yesterday… cant wait to follow the recipe too… it sounds fabulous! Thank you, thank you, for the whole blog, your writing is so captivating and articulate! Dinner making has been revived with a new spark and excitement!

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