In just one day, again will be the night for a little Halloween fright! October 31st marks the perfect occasion to get unconventional in the kitchen. The past few years I’ve conjured-up some witch-worthy Halloween sweets, but this year I decided to keep it savory.
What delicious—and visually unappealing—dinner should the evening offer? I debated squirmy pastas or ghoulish goulash, but then one dark dish came to mind. I grew up with black bean soup and though I love the flavor, a bowl of bubbling blackness never looked too appealing—this will be perfect! Keeping things festive, I decided we’d also serve our brew in an edible, ghostly gourd.
I consumed southern black bean soup as a youngster, and always loved it. My Mom would put a big pot on the stove some Sundays, letting the soup simmer throughout the afternoon. I remember her soaking the beans the night before, or if she was pressed for time, just a quick soak the day of. This brought some questions to mind, what if I DIDN’T soak these black beauties? What if I threw them into a chicken stock abyss and let them fend for themselves? I happened to come across an article recently, which touched on this very dried dilemma: Soak Black Beans?
The curious chemistry-loving cook in me took author and foodie, Kenji’s advice—and I didn’t soak my beans. Well, for the first batch. That’s right, I tried both un-soaked & quick-soaked on different occasions, just to see for myself! The result? In both cases, virtually the same texture with what seemed like a long cook time to achieve desired tenderness (thanks Florence).
Time to put the cauldron on:
- 1 lb (bag) dried black beans
- 1 large sweet white onion
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 medium carrot, peeled
- 4 strips of bacon
- 4 cups water (for initially quick-soaking dried beans)
- 7-10 cups chicken stock (depending on cook time & bean texture)
- ½ cup white wine (like a dry Chardonnay)
- 2 T butter, for sautéing vegetables
- ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ - 1 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- ½ tsp ground black pepper (more to taste)
- dash ground cumin
- splash of red wine vinegar
- sour cream, for garnish (optional)
- green onion or chives, chopped for garnish (optional)
- edible pumpkin, or squash (I used Carnival squash), to serve soup in (optional)
- Rinse dried beans in a colander with cool water, sorting out any debris, drain.
- In a large pot, add beans and cover with ~4 cups warm water (or enough to cover by ~2 inches).
- Bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes on stove (stir to ensure beans don't stick to pot bottom).
- Cover pot & remove from heat, letting beans soak untouched for 1.5 hrs (begin to prep other ingredients during this time, see steps below).
- Drain soaked beans & rinse with cool water, set aside.
- While beans are soaking for the 1.5 hrs (see steps above), finely chop carrot & celery in a food processor, then followed by the onion & garlic (to a fine texture).
- In large soup pot (or Dutch oven), fry the 4 slices of bacon until brown & crisp (can add a little butter here if bacon will sticks to your pot bottom), set slices aside.
- To pot with bacon grease, add 2T butter, chopped vegetable mix, dried thyme, pinch of salt & pepper and sauté on medium for ~8 mins.
- Add ¼ cup chicken stock & continue to sauté mix until tender (~10 more mins) stirring often, set mix aside and turn off heat.
- When beans are rinsed, reheat pot with sautéed vegetable mix and add: 6 cups chicken stock, beans, 2 bay leaves, ½ tsp salt & ½ tsp black pepper—bringing mix to a boil.
- Let pot simmer on medium heat, partially covered for 1.5 hours (stir & check liquid levels occasionally, pot should be bubbling/almost gently boiling & beans should be covered with enough fluid, add more during if needed).
- After 1.5 hours check beans & liquid level, adding 2-4 cups additional chicken stock (as needed) and one strip of the cooked bacon, continue to cook (partially covered) for another 1.5 hours until soup is thickened.
- After 3 hours of cooking, again check tenderness of beans & liquid level (add more fluid & continue to cook as needed, to let fluid absorb & evaporate to desired consistency).
- Add additional ½ tsp sea salt if necessary (though the bacon strip will add some saltiness also).
- When beans are tender enough add ½ white wine, dash cumin & splash of red wine vinegar, simmer for 15-20 mins (removing bacon slice & 2 bay leaves, add additional S&P as desired), soup should be thick.
- Serve bowl of soup warm, with dollop of sour cream and chopped green onion, and crumbled bacon on top as desired.
Liquid levels depend on the tenderness of the beans. We quick soak the dried beans so part of the cook time is the 1.5 hours of soaking. You can continue to cook soup after 3 hours, adding more fluid until beans are tender enough to serve. This soup should be thick, but you can add stock so this reaches desired consistency. Depending on quality of dried beans, I've had batches take a really long time, and some that cook in 3 hours. I have also used un-soaked and soaked beans, and the cook time is only marginally longer (~40 min) when un-soaked. Add salt during cooking as desired!
Both bean-laden batches tasted delicious in the end! Though, I realized my bags of dried beans were a little hauntingly ancient, and this may have affected texture. Seems fitting for All Hallow’s Eve, but not so much for testing my hungry
impatience. In the end, I decided that quick soaking the beans did allow me to use less cooking stock and save a little bit of time; therefore, I declare this method the winner, but not by much (I guess Mom’s do know best).
The bacon gives us a smokey flavor, and I oven-roasted a carnival squash to serve the soup in, which gives us a hint of sweet. This recipe is pretty flexible—I added fluid (and seasoning) until the beans were to my fancy. Basically we’re soaking dried beans (or not if you’re following Kenji’s method), sautéing veggies, then slow-cooking to develop flavor & tenderness. In the end we add white wine & red wine vinegar—both acids—to give this the necessary pop! We add these last and not when beans are initially cooking, because acidity will inhibit them from drawing in fluid, making their skins tougher. Then it will take even longer, and I’d rather be Trick-or-Treating (or in my case begging my niece or nephews for a Twix). This one tastes even better the next day, so it’s a great soup to make ahead for the week.
Here’s to wishing you a night of devilish dishes, and hopefully you get a little candy—or someone else’s—Happy Haunting!Pin It