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 :)


Sonia said...

Great job, Nathan! It is not even 8 am here and with my mouth salivating and stomach making rumbling noises, I'm ready for a bowl of red beans and rice!!!
Muchisimas gracias, Nathan for trying, liking and featuring my red bean stew!

Lyndsey said...

Now that is something I want to sink my teeth into. Yum! It looks wonderful!

Yaya said...

Oh yumm! That looks so good and nutritious!

Nathan where do you buy Spanish chorizo? We don't have it around here, only regular smoked sausage.

Nathan said...

I can never get enough Potaje's we make them very often at my house :) today we just finished the Potaje de Colorados and I put another pot to simmer for dinner of "Potaje de Judias" with some pork bones and spanish sausage, came out so good I'll share it sometime.

Thanks :)

There's some small stores in Southern California that carry it (like in the Valley there's "La Chiquita Market") and further from me about 1 hour there's a factory run by a Spanish families called "La Espanola Meats" (they also have a website you can order from) besides that I usually have to resort to buying it online, or having friends bring me some whenever they make trips to Miami or elsewhere.

Spanish Chorizo is hard to get a hold of in the USA and quality usually can't match that of Spain's selection (they are very smokey and lend stews huge flavors) but if you still want to make it you could make it without. Use regular smoked sausage like Keilbasa or if you want that kick use Louisiana type sausages like "Louisana Hot links" though I think Keilbasa would be better.

Currently someone brought me two packets. I use 1/2 of one packet to make the stews because it's so scarce for me and over priced as well.

Jessy said...

This recipe looks great! I like the idea of using dry sherry and vinegar with these beans. I'll have to give it a try, thanks!

Mamey said...

Spanish Spanish chorizo (as opposed to USA-made Spanish chorizo) is available at El Mambi in Glendale, California and at El Canonazo in Atwater, California (near the Los Feliz area). These two are Cuban stores (well, the first one is owned by an Asturian, but it's essentially Cuban) are the closest ones to where I live-- probably available in other Cuban grocery stores in Southern California. The brand available is Palacios. If your local Cuban store doesn't have it ask for it--if it's available in some then the distributor can get it to others. The problem is that some Cuban stores have been bought by people who don't know much about all the ingredients needed in a real Cuban kitchen. Also, and unfortunately, many local Cuban restaurants cut corners because their clientele is now mostly non-Cuban, and they skimp on, for example, wine or sherry which is used in a lot of Cuban dishes, or good chorizos, or on the seafood for paellas, or, or I could go on but you know, gotta stop this rant. At Wholefoods they sometimes have sliced Spanish chorizo, which is better for tapas or bocaditos but I haven't seen any for cooking with potajes.

wedding aisle runners said...

great recipes. thanks for the ideas

Anonymous said...

The best frijoles colorados I have had yet! My husband said you made this>>>Hehe. You are making it easy for me to even impress my Mom. She couldn't beleive how delish the beans where. Thanks

Max said...

Nathan & Sonia

I just made the Potaje De Frijoles Colorados. I stuck to your recipe pretty much. It was phenomenal!! A lot of work but worth every bite. Keep up the great job.


Nathan said...

So true! Cuban restaurants down here skimp on so much :/ their tomato based stews just suck! (no wine, way to light on spices, etc.)I'm so guilty of subbing spanish chorizo for "Salchichas Ahumadas Picantes" (spicy smoked louisiana style sausages) because often times i don't feel like runnign all the way to the Cuban bodega, or order online (plus I can get like 1 lbs. of those sausages for like 5.99 lol.)

Wedding Runner,
Thanks :)

GLad you enjoyed :)

Glad it was a hit :D

Marie said...

OK, a few months ago I commented on a different post that I was going to try your recipe for red beans, but I lied. This one isn't the same as my grandma's, but I'm going to break down and try it anyway. :)

I have a pretty large hambone and plenty of ham left over from Easter, so it seemed like the next logical thing to make some potaje de coloraos. ;)

Also, I know I'm a total stranger but would you mind if I friended you on FB?

Nathan said...

You are more than welcomed to add me on facebook ha ha :) let me know how the Potaje turns out :D

Marie said...

Haha, so I just added you on FB. :)

I had jury duty on Monday, so even though I left my beans to soak overnight on Sunday, I wasn't able to make the beans myself. However, I emailed my mom your recipe, and when I got home from court, the most delicious aroma wafted out from my house to meet me.

Suffice to say, that recipe was AWESOME and we will be using it again. It's hard to find chorizo locally where I am (I'm in the Bay Area, but we don't have a lot of Cuban markets here anymore, and all the Latin American markets around cater to Mexican and Central American tastes), so we omitted it, and then as it turns out, I forgot to buy bacon or salt pork or anything to back it up. The potaje didn't even need it, especially the second day.

I'm still trying to scheme a way to get some chorizo up here. Maybe next time I run down to L.A....

Nathan said...

You can order Chorizo online from "La Tienda" or from "La Espanola Meats" (they sell something called CHorizo de Bilbao) sometimes (well not sometimes ha ha I'm guilty) I use "Louisiana hotlinks" or "Andouille Sausage" those are available at Costco's or a lot of stores that sell cater to white people. They are smoked and use paprika, the flavor is different but it goes very well the Potaje's I've found and it's much much cheaper. Of course when I can afford it, and wanna make a trip I love using the real deal but yup yup :)