Online Cooking School: Boiling and Simmering Course Recap

by Willie on July 17, 2014

in Cooking School, Daily, Food Fuel, Recipes

Last week, I completed my sixth week of America’s Test Kitchen’s Online Cooking School. I’ve noticed that my cooking has definitely improved by leaps and bounds. Angela has approved of several meals that I have made since starting this cooking school again. So, with week six, I’ve gone to the course essentially called, “How To Boil Water.” To be honest, it’s more than that though. Knowing how to control boiling liquids or even how to get a liquid to simmer is a really good technique to review. I relearned how to cook pasta and grains. I learned how to blanch vegetables because frankly, I’ve never done it before. I also learned how to brine and cook beans. My final test was to create the dish of Cuban Black Beans and Rice. It turned out very well. Angela really enjoyed this dish and we are going to keep it in our rotation of dinners. Here’s a side note to this recipe. I used turkey bacon instead of the salt pork. Again, the dish still turned out really well. So, try the dish out for yourself and tell me what you think of it. Also, send me a picture. I want to see how each and everyone one of yours turns out!


What have you cooked recently? How did the end result turn out?


Cuban Black Beans and Rice (Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking School)

Total Time: 10 hours
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Make Ahead: Serve immediately
Difficulty: Intermediate


  • table salt
  • 1 Cup dried black beans
  • 2 Cups low-sodium chicken broth *
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 Large green bell peppers
  • 1 Large onion
  • 1 Head garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ Cups long-grain rice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 Ounces lean salt pork * *
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 Teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Medium scallions
  • 1 lime
  • * For a vegetarian version of this recipe, use water instead of chicken broth, omit the salt pork, cook 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with the vegetables, and increase the salt added along with the precooked beans and vinegar to 1 ½ teaspoons.
  • * * It’s important to use lean—not fatty—salt pork. If you can’t find it, substitute 6 slices of bacon. Bacon browns and renders more quickly than salt pork, so decrease the cooking time before adding the sofrito—the chopped aromatic vegetables—to 8 minutes from the 15 or 20 minutes that salt pork requires.


  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Colander
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Dutch oven *
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tongs
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • Food processor

* Make sure to a use a large, heavy Dutch oven with a capacity of at least 6 quarts for this recipe.


Brine Beans

  • 1. Rinse 1 cup dried black beans and pick out any blemished beans and stones.
  • 2. Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in large bowl or container.
  • 3. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • 4. Drain and rinse well.

Prepare Vegetables

  • 5. Stem, seed, and halve 2 large green bell peppers.
  • 6. Halve 1 large onion at equator.
  • 7. Keep root end intact and peel halves.
  • 8. Remove 5 cloves from 1 head garlic.
  • 9. Keep skins on garlic head and halve head at equator.
  • 10. Peel and mince 5 garlic cloves. You should have about 5 teaspoons.

Cook Beans

  • 11. Combine drained beans, 2 cups chicken broth, 2 cups water, 1 pepper half, 1 onion half, halved garlic head, 2 bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt in Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid.
  • 12. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat.
  • 13. Cover and reduce heat to low.
  • 14. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • 15. Using tongs, remove and discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves.
  • 16. Drain beans in colander set over large bowl, reserving 2 ½ cups bean cooking liquid. (If you don’t have enough bean cooking liquid, add water to equal 2 1/2 cups.)
  • 17. Do not wash out Dutch oven.

Rinse Rice and Prepare Sofrito

  • 18. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • 19. While beans are simmering, place 1 ½ cups long-grain white rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 1 ½ minutes.
  • 20. Shake strainer vigorously to remove all excess water.
  • 21. Set rice aside.
  • 22. Cut remaining 3 pepper halves and remaining onion half into 2-inch pieces.
  • 23. Pulse pepper and onion in food processor until broken into rough ¼-inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
  • 24. Set vegetables aside.
  • 25. Mince enough fresh oregano to yield 1 tablespoon.
  • 26. Cut 6 ounces salt pork into 1/4-inch cubes.

Cook Sofrito

  • 27. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt pork over medium-low heat.
  • 28. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and rendered, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • 29. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, chopped peppers and onion, minced fresh oregano, and 4 teaspoons ground cumin.
  • 30. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
  • 31. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Cook Rice and Beans

  • 32. Add rinsed rice and stir to coat, about 30 seconds.
  • 33. Stir in beans, reserved bean cooking liquid, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt.
  • 34. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer.
  • 35. Cover and transfer to oven.
  • 36. Bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Finish and Serve

  • 37. Fluff with fork and let rest, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  • 38. Meanwhile, thinly slice 2 scallions.
  • 39. Cut lime into 8 wedges.
  • 40. Serve beans and rice, passing scallions and lime wedges separately.


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