Back the Bean

This past “Taco Tuesday” was a little different than the preceding ones. Not only did I make tacos, but I also decided to make something other than rice or chips & salsa to go along with the tacos. The Mr loves him some chips & salsa. If I buy it, he devours (nearly) all of it! So, it’s more of an occasional treat than an every week sort of thing. There’s only so much rice and chips & salsa a girl can eat. Tacos? Now that’s a different story. This time, I went for something different that ended up stealing the show!

When this Covid hysteria hit, the rice and beans were some of the first things to become scarce. Well those and toilet paper… But among dried goods, people were having to start discovering other legumes and grains in the absence of familiar staples. When times got desperate, things like Adzuki beans and farro found a home with many who were initially unfamiliar with the delightful, if fringe, ingredients. It gives me a little hope that people used the gift of time and scarcity to branch out, get creative, and find a new family favorite together. When things stabilized a bit and black beans again became available, I snagged some as quickly as possible!

I like pinto beans as much as the next person, but I really prefer richly seasoned black beans with my Tex-Mex. Both the creamy texture and mild flavor just support so well. In that vein, I needed something… something… more. I needed something hearty. I needed Williams-Sonoma’s Black Bean Soup with Tomatillo Salsa from my copy of Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook in my life. Soup may be warm and may seem like an odd choice for a hot Texas spring night, but truthfully soup is a light, filling dish and pretty hydrating. This soup was outstanding! At one point, the Mr turned to me between bites and said, “Whoa! That’s some pretty darn good soup!”

I wasn’t able to find a link online to the exact recipe online, but I’ve transcribed my spin on the dish below.

1/2lb dried black beans
1/2 yellow onion
1sm carrot, shredded
1sm rib celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh cilantro
1sm ham hock
2.5qt chicken or veg stock
1/2tbsp ground chili powder
1/2tbsp ground cumin
1/2tbsp kosher salt
1/4c sour cream
Fresh lime wedges
5 tomatillos
1/2sm red onion
1sm serrano chili, stemmed and seeded
1/4c cilantro, chopped
1/2tbsp olive oil
1/2tsp ACV
1/2tsp kosher salt

1) Rinse and work over beans, looking for stones or debris that doesn’t belong. Put in a bowl and cover by 3in with water. Soak overnight.
2) The next day, in a med saucepan, combine soaked black beans, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, cilantro, ham hock, and stock. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2hrs, until the beans are tender. Add more stock as needed to keep the beans covered during the cooking time.
3) While the beans are cooking, remove and rinse the tomatillos. Coarsely chop the tomatillos, onion, serrano pepper, and cilantro. Combine in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, ACV, and salt. Set aside for the flavors to marry while the beans are cooking.
4) When the beans are ready, remove from heat, discard ham hock, and allow rest to cool for 15min. Either ladle the bean mixture into a food processor, or process the mixture in the saucepan with an immersion blender, to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
5) Return to heat and stir in spices. Taste for seasoning and ladle into bowls to serve. Garnish with a swirl of sour cream, lime, and tomatillo salsa.

It may have seemed like an odd meal choice initially, but it really turned out quite satisfying! It was actually one of the best black bean soups we’d ever had! It had just the right amount of creaminess and spice to mingle with the acidity of the fresh lime and tomatillo salsa and the cool, tanginess of the sour cream. It definitely provided wow-factor for such a humble dish. The tomatillo salsa was so stirring, I decided to recently put in some tomatillo plants from seed in the garden. I watch them every day for blooms to help pollinate! I may not quite know what I’m doing, but it’s fun to figure it out along the way! Just like my kitchen adventures!

We enjoyed our soup with crispy potato, chorizo, and egg breakfast tacos. I grew up eating chorizo and it mixes so well with eggs and sharp cheddar! The crispy potatoes, cooked in delicious duck fat, added the right amount of crunch to play off the soft texture of the fatty eggs and Potapas Sweet Potato Tortilllas. About those crispy potatoes… I diced up one russet potato into 1/2in cubes and fried themin my trusty Lodge cast iron skillet in 2tbsp of duck fat for 10min. Then I tossed them in kosher salt and dusting of garlic powder and spread them on a baking sheet to bake at 400° for 15-20min. So simple yet so divine! Nothing beats crispy duck fat potatoes!

Besides toilet paper, what is one thing you kept an eye out for during the scarcity of the Covid panic?

Currently Reading: Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham


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