Mini Black Bean Cakes with Carnitas and Avocado Recipe

Mini Black Bean Cakes with Carnitas and Avocado
Difficulty: Medium | Total Time: | Makes: 24 mini black bean cakes

This appetizer is like a meal from the taqueria in just a couple of bites. The base is a black bean cake coated with cornmeal and fried until crispy. It’s dressed with a simple mash of avocado mixed with lime juice for a punch of citrus, and topped with crispy carnitas and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve these Mexican-inspired hors d’oeuvres with a tart margarita.

What to buy: Look for avocados that give slightly when pressed but aren’t completely soft. We used Hass avocados.

Special equipment: You’ll need cheesecloth and kitchen twine for this recipe.

Game plan: The carnitas can be made up to 2 days in advance. Reheat in a 375°F oven in a baking dish covered with foil until hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. The black bean cakes can be made up to 1 day in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. To reheat, place them on a baking sheet and warm in a 375°F oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

INGREDIENTS

For the carnitas:

  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 medium white onion, peeled and halved through the root end
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder or country-style pork ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks (do not trim the fat)

For the black bean cakes:

  • 1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup fine, unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup small-dice white onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Mexican-style hot sauce, such as Cholula or Tapatío
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

To assemble:

  • 2 medium avocados
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 medium lime)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
INSTRUCTIONS
For the carnitas:

  1. Place the garlic, coriander, and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it tightly with kitchen twine. Place the bundle in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the onion, marjoram, and salt. Arrange the pork in a single layer and add enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim and discard any foam that floats to the surface using a large spoon. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, skimming the surface and turning the pork pieces occasionally, until the meat is tender and just beginning to shred apart, about 1 1/2 hours. (You may need to adjust the heat to low to keep it at a simmer.)
  2. Remove and discard the herb packet and onion halves. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the remaining water evaporates and just the rendered fat coats the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and let the meat fry in the fat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  3. Remove and discard any large pieces of unrendered fat from the saucepan. Shred the meat into bite-size pieces and place in an oven-safe dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven to keep warm while you make the black bean cakes.

For the black bean cakes:

  1. Place the cornmeal in a shallow dish and set aside. Set a baking sheet aside.
  2. Place the beans, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, cilantro, onion, hot sauce, and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse until the ingredients are incorporated and the beans are broken down but some whole beans remain, about 15 (1-second) pulses, stopping the processor and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Scoop the bean mixture into your hands 1 heaping tablespoon at a time and form it into 24 (2-inch-wide) patties. Coat the patties all over with the cornmeal and place them on the reserved baking sheet.
  4. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 4 minutes. Place 8 of the patties in the pan and fry until golden brown and heated through, adjusting the heat as necessary, about 3 minutes per side. Return the fried patties to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining patties, adding the remaining oil to the pan as needed between batches. Place the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.

To assemble:

  1. Halve and pit the avocados and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Add the lime juice, season with salt, and coarsely mash with a fork until only a few medium-sized chunks remain; set aside.
  2. Remove the black bean cakes and carnitas from the oven. Divide all of the avocado mixture among the black bean cakes and top with the carnitas (you may have some left over). Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately.