Saturday, March 19, 2016

Black bean soup with bacon

Every time I read food blogs I end up saving a ton of them to Pinterest. But I'm not sure I've ever read a recipe and been so inspired that I immediately go to my kitchen and start cooking.

That is, I'd never done that until I read this post for hearty bean soup with bacon.

Such a humble dish, it seems surprising that beans would get me off the couch and into the oven. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. First off the recipe was dead simple. And I had a bag of black beans in my cupboard. And there was a chill in the air, so I was craving soup. It was the perfect storm.

What is it about beans and bacon that makes such an incredible combination?! I mean this would make a delicious vegetarian soup, but a touch of smoked bacon gives this dish such a deep and complex flavor. It also didn't hurt that I was using the best bacon I've ever had, this thick-cut smokey bacon from a tiny town in Minnesota across the river from the boy's hometown in Wisconsin.

Not sure my post will get you off the computer and into your kitchen, but I hope so!

Buen Provecho,

Bean Soup with Bacon, adapted from Seasons and Suppers

You can thicken your soup in a couple of ways. Use an immersion blender to break the beans up just a bit (a potato masher or fork would work too). You can also thicken with a bit of cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) dissolved in a bit of water.

4 slices of bacon, diced into 1/4-inch pieces (if you don't have smokey bacon, add a few drops of liquid smoke to the soup, to taste)
1/3 cup diced onion
1 cup finely diced carrot (about 1/4-inch dice)
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dried beans (I used black beans)
bay leaf
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1-2 drops of Liquid Smoke (don't add if you're using a super smokey bacon)
Optional: 2 TBSP cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) mixed with 2 TBSP water, to thicken

  1. In a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until almost crisp. Remove half the bacon, place in a small bowl, and store in the refrigerator. 
  2. Discard all but 1 TBSP of the bacon fat from the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onions are tender. 
  3. Add the broth, water, dried beans and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly, then immediately reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes. 
  4. After 90 minutes, start testing your beans by taking a bit of one, and continue simmering, covered, as necessary until beans are tender (testing every 15 minutes). 
  5. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Add the tomato paste and Liquid Smoke (if using). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary (add more salt/pepper/tomato paste, to taste). 
  6. To thicken the soup, use an immersion blender or potato masher to smash the beans. I didn't puree the soup completely and left some chunks of beans in there. If you’d like your soup a little thicker, add the cornstarch/water mixture to soup and cook over medium heat, stirring until soup thickens.
  7. Once the soup is at the consistency you'd like, add in the the reserved bacon pieces until warmed through.


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