Let Happy Help Cure What Ails You With This Smokey And The Bandit Black Bean Soup
A friend of mine who is under the weather has requested black bean soup, and I did what grown people do — I started soaking beans overnight. My pal is beating the living H out a long-term illness, so this is the point in the hero’s journey when we drop the hammer. You feel me? Black beans, ham hocks, bacon, peppers and onions, molasses, avocado salsa, pumpkin seeds — you will need a helmet and a seatbelt just to read this recipe.
How awesome is it that my friend requested comfort food? She could have asked for caviar stuffed lobsters, or turkey dinner. I was prepared to agree to anything. Maybe she just wanted to see how far I would escalate a soup from my jet propulsion kitchen in suburban Chicago. As it turns out, I will go pretty damn far. What we need is this kind of situation is more than just a black bean soup. We need to put a party in someone’s pie-hole, with love.
For the woman who never complains and has every right to, this.
SMOKEY BLACK BEAN & THE BANDIT SOUP
6 cooked bacon strips, oil reserved
3-4 turns of olive oil
1 Ham hock
2 small sweet onions, minced
1 smoked, cooked ham steak, chopped
2 shallots, minced
2 small green peppers, minced *
1 large red pepper, minced *
3 garlic cloves, pressed and minced
½ jalapeno, minced
1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 small chipotle pepper in Adobo, minced
1 qt. plus 3 cups water
3-4 tbs. Chicken Better Than Bouillon
1 ½ tbs. dried oregano
1 tbs. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
3 bay leaves
3-5 tbs. molasses, to taste (may substitute with Turbinado sugar)
Kosher salt and pepper
Cooked rice, for serving
2 cans cooked black beans
* Reserve 2 tbs. each for salsa
Fry the bacon to crisp and set it aside. Reserve the grease. Add oil to the grease, and sauté the onions, shallots, red and green peppers and jalapeno until tender. Add garlic; cook 5-ish minutes more on medium heat. Meanwhile, crumble the bacon, and trim the fat off the ham steak.
In a large soup pot bring the water and chicken base to a boil. Drain the soaking beans and add them to the pot. Add the cooked onions and peppers, seasonings, minced chipotle with reserved sauce, molasses (or Turbinado sugar), ham hock, ham and crumbled bacon. Reduce heat to low simmer for 2 ½ hours. Stir occasionally and test the seasonings after the first 90 minutes.
Puree two cans of rinsed black beans in a food processor. Fold this into the soup one scoop at a time to adjust thickness. Add as little or as much as you prefer. Adjust the seasonings and sweetness as needed. Simmer until hot for 30 minutes more.
Toppings – Avocado salsa, queso fresco (Mexican white cheese), toasted pumpkin seeds, and real sour cream.
Serve with the suggested toppings, avocado salsa, and rice.
AVOCADO SALSA (¡El Bandito!)
3-4 ripe avocados
1 small chopped red onion
Zest of one lime, plus juice
¼ c. chopped cilantro
Salt, black pepper and white pepper
Reserved green and red pepper, minced.
Cut 3-4 avocados in half, discard the seed and score the flesh. Scoop out the cubes, careful to get rid of any discolored portions. Add lime juice and zest, cilantro, onion, and salt and pepper. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.
I studied more than a dozen black bean soup recipes. Some techniques are superior to others and produce more turbo power. I picked out my favorite parts from each recipe, threw in some tricks, and transformed adults with manners and self respect into complete slobs licking their bowls clean. When someone looks at you while eating this and they say, “This is restaurant quality,” it probably is even better than that. I don’t mean any disrespect, Progresso, but I own this one.
Feel better, friend.