GINNA PARSONS: Scary dish turns out to be a favorite

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

When I was pregnant with my first child in the summer of 1993, my husband and I decided to join his family on a weeklong vacation in a condo on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
We made the long drive in my little Mazda Protégé, and what we had thought would be about a 14-hour trip turned into an excruciating 18-hour journey, thanks to bumper-to-bumper traffic once we got close to our destination.
By the time we arrived at our two-story rent-a-home by the ocean a little after midnight, we were just a wee bit grumpy and headed straight to bed.
The next day, when everyone was being kind to one another again, we began to discuss food arrangements. We ultimately decided that each “family group” would provide an evening meal for the others one night of the trip.
My mother-in-law announced that she intended to make Frogmore Stew with a side of Cuban Black Beans. I’d never heard of either before, and I was petrified of what she might place before us.
My fears were put to rest when I saw her preparing the Frogmore Stew – it was nothing more than a delicious pot of shrimp, kielbasa sausage, corn on the cob and new potatoes cooked in crab boil.
The black beans were a bit more scary looking – they were so black, they were almost blue. And she was serving them over rice with a dollop of sour cream on top. My swollen tummy roiled at the thought.
Everyone else helped themselves to big bowls, while I found the smallest saucer possible for my black beans. I forced myself to take a bite. And then another and another, and pretty soon I traded my saucer for a big bowl.
Like everyone else at the table, I was hooked on the deliciousness of the meaty beans, the salty ham and the spicy red pepper.
I make these about twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring – because they are very rich. If I’m lucky, my mother-in-law makes them a couple of times a year, too.

Roye’s Black Beans
1 pound dried black beans
6 cups cold water
2 small ham hocks
1⁄2 cup olive oil
31⁄2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
11⁄2 cups chopped green peppers
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1⁄4 teaspoon dried, hot red-pepper flakes
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons dark rum
Put the beans in a bowl with the six cups of cold water. Cover and let stand overnight. Drain the beans, reserving the water in which they soaked. Measure the water and add enough additional water to make 8 cups.
Place the beans, water and ham bone in a Dutch oven or large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook slowly, uncovered, until beans are tender, 4 to 6 hours.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and add onions and green peppers. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is wilted. Add the garlic and cook briefly, stirring. After the beans have cooked about 2 hours, add the mixture to the beans. Add the bay leaves, pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and pepper.
When the beans are almost tender, uncover and continue cooking 30 minutes. Remove the ham hocks. When they are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, fat, bones and gristle. Shred the meat and return it to the beans. Remove bay leaves. Add the cayenne pepper and Tabasco. Just before serving, stir in the rum.
Makes 8 servings.
Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.