Best Black Bean Soup
This American classic can be a perfect dish: big-tasting, filling, nutritious, easy and very possibly vegetarian. With their rich natural broth, turtle beans do not need bacon, ham or any meat ingredient to make a satisfying soup. Black bean soup recipes have a tendency to turn out sludgy or bland, but the trick here is to season generously, and purée sparingly. The beans should be swimming in liquid, not sitting in sludge: The more beans are puréed, the more starch is released into the soup. For flavor, this recipe deploys marinated chipotle chiles, but a tablespoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander make a good heat-free substitute. (A note: Since there is acid from the wine here, if your tap water is hard there might be a reaction that will prevent the beans from softening. To be safe, add the wine later, along with the stock. And if there is any question about the hardness of your water, use distilled.)
- Serves: 10 persons
- 1small (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo (see note)
- 2tablespoons olive oil
- 2carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2onions, peeled and chopped
- 4garlic cloves, minced
- 1cup red wine
- 2jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
- 1pound dry black beans (do not soak)
- 2quarts mild vegetable or chicken stock
- 1tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 2bay leaves
- 1tablespoon kosher salt
- 1teaspoon ground black pepper
- Red wine vinegar, to taste
- 1small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- Freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes
- Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Whole cilantro leaves
- Thinly sliced fresh chiles
- Sliced avocado
Step 1Empty the can of chiles into a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth, scrape into a container, and set aside. Put on a teakettle of water to boil, and keep hot.
Step 2In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
Step 3Pour in wine and let simmer until pan is almost dry and vegetables are coated. Add jalapeños and cook, stirring, just until softened, 2 minutes. Push the vegetables out to the edges of the pot and dollop 2 teaspoons of chipotle purée in the center. Let fry for a minute and then stir together with the vegetables.
Step 4Add beans, stock, oregano and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, and let boil 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partly covered, stirring occasionally and adding hot water as needed to keep the soup liquid and runny, not sludgy. Continue cooking until beans are just softened and fragrant, 1 to 2 hours. Add salt and pepper and keep cooking until beans are soft.
Step 5Meanwhile, make the pickled onions, if using: In a bowl, combine sliced onions, lime juice and a sprinkling of salt. Let soften at room temperature until crunchy and tart, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry in paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve. If desired, chop coarsely before serving.
Step 6Adjust the texture of the soup: The goal is to combine whole beans, soft chunks and a velvety broth. Some beans release enough starch while cooking to produce a thick broth without puréeing. If soup seems thin, use an immersion blender or blender to purée a small amount of the beans until smooth, then stir back in. Continue until desired texture is reached, keeping in mind that the soup will continue to thicken as it sits.
Step 7Heat the soup through, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, drops of red wine vinegar and dabs of chipotle purée.
Step 8Serve in deep bowls, garnishing each serving with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, sliced chiles and avocado as desired.