Mon | Feb 19, 2018

Bring on the beans

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence
A final look at Ambassador Moreno's culinary talents, American beans (to the left in the miniature Dutch pot) with grilled meats and vegetables.
Ambassador Moreno pours the beans into the simmering chopped onions, peppers and bacon.
Ambassador Moreno plates the grilled meats to accompany his stew.
Ambassador Moreno grills up a storm.
US Ambassador Luis Moreno proudly shows us his American beans.

Americans at home and abroad prepared for another Independence Day celebration, and United States Ambassador to Jamaica Luis G. Moreno took us on a journey down memory lane, sharing a part of his childhood and his fondest fourth of July memory. And it's one worth remembering as it included a delectable stew.

Ambassador Moreno invited Food to his home to prepare this sweet stew-like dish that he dubbed American beans. He recalled a story about the soldiers who made soup with a nail; in essence, that was how it started and it manifested into a complete dish. The dish was developed like this: He started with just cooking the canned pork and beans with his friends, and someone would suggest something else to be added until it became something great.

The Staten Island, New York, native went through the preparation in detail with such finesse. He sautÈed the chopped onions in olive oil with peppers. Moreno advised that we should not allow the onion to be carmelised and then added the bacon. Once this was done, he added the baked beans, brown sugar and ketchup. He mentioned that one could add hot sauce, and he particularly fancied Louisiana hot sauce. He lightly stirred and then covered it for it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

During this time, Moreno told us why, for him, the stew was significant to Memorial Day.

"My class had few boys. So we were very close and always going over each other's houses during the summer. That was when we experimented with this dish. I use bacon now, but we had tried it with beef and steak," he told Food. "Memorial Day is the beginning of summer, so the dish and the holiday go hand in hand. So when it comes around, I think of this dish, and when I make this dish, I think of my childhood."

Moreno then took us to the patio where chef George Matthews joined us with meat for the ambassador to grill. This gave us a glimpse of how the ambassador spends his Saturday evenings - cap on, tongs in hand and flipping away.

We were then given the opportunity to taste the stew that gave the sweetest of aroma. Our palate went on a field day with the sweet, smooth flavour. The stew was complemented by the tender grilled ribs, chicken breast and, most of all, the sausages, which added a bit off salt to the sweet.

Moreno admitted that when he does cook the dish, he mostly has it with rice, which he refers to as his 'combat meal', meaning an on-the-go easy meal to prepare.