Black Bean Soup

It’s been soup weather, and I whipped this up this spicy winner recently for a cozy night in — perfect with a side of corn bread. The knock-out ingredient is the chipotle chile in adobo. If you’ve never had one, a chipotle chile is a smoked jalapeño pepper. It’s got great spice, but also an intensely smoky flavor. They are often canned with adobo sauce (a tangy red sauce) and you’ll find them in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store — likely near the Mexican food items. The chipotle adds a great depth of flavor to this black bean soup, which also incorporates onion, carrot, garlic and fresh jalapeño in the base. All of the flavors cook down together into a hearty, spicy, satisfying soup that’s a perfect main course.

I love the array of accoutrements that often go alongside a soup like this to add different flavor elements — pickled red onions, lime, sour cream, cilantro, avocado and even more jalapeño if you can take it! It’s a fun little smorgasbord you can fan out across the top of the soup for a nice presentation.

TW’s Tips

  • Instead of dirtying a blender, I used an immersion blender to puree the chipotle chiles in a small bowl
  • If you want to add some meat to this (which is what I did), add some chopped up chicken after the vegetables have softened a bit. It does add more moisture to the pot, so you’ll need to let that cook out a bit before adding the wine.
  • The recipe offers a replacement for chipotle chiles in adobo, but in my opinion, nothing can replace them. They are super spicy and smoky and add a depth of flavor you just can’t get from ground spices.
  • This is the perfect occasion to take out your cast iron Dutch oven!
  • To make this vegetarian, just use vegetable stock.

Enjoy!

Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1 small (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pound dry black beans (do not soak)
  • 2 quarts mild vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

For the pickled onions and garnishes (optional)

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes
  • Salt
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Whole cilantro leaves
  • Thinly sliced fresh chiles
  • Sliced avocado

Directions

Empty 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.

In 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.

Pour 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.

Add 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

Adjust 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.

Heat the soup through, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, drops of red wine vinegar and dabs of chipotle purée.

Serve in deep bowls, garnishing each serving with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, sliced chiles and avocado as desired.

Tip
If chipotle chiles are unavailable, use 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and ground coriander. Add to vegetables at the same point in the recipe, in Step 3.

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