Cook the Book: Rick Bayless's Black Bean Soup

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

The majority of recipes I write about here in Cook the Book end up being my dinner and this week's selection has posed a bit of a problem. You see, with the exception of ramen and pho, I've never been one to be satisfied with soup as a meal. I suppose the closest I ever get to serving soup for dinner is a bowl of chili, but that really doesn't count as soup, at least not in my book.

While searching through Clifford A. Wright's The Best Soups in the World I was on the lookout for recipes that would be truly satisfying, soups that you could really sink your teeth into without having to resort to an entire loaf of bread to really fill you up.

This adaptation of Rick Bayless's Black Bean Soup was just what I had in mind. Reading the ingredients list, this could make some tasty tacos or tostadas if it weren't for the 12 cups of water called for in the recipe. There was no doubt in my mind that this combination of shrimp, black beans, tortillas, and queso fresco would make a soup that didn't leave me wanting something else.

I must preface my step-by-step breakdown of this recipe by saying that I cheated a bit during the preparation. Last week's Boston "Baked" Beans taught me that dried beans don't have to resort to hours of cooking, so I broke out the pressure cooker to cut down on the simmering time for this soup. As expected, it worked like a charm, and the pressure-cooked beans simmered with the onion, fennel, chipotle chiles, and chorizo for a little less than an hour to become tender and flavorful.

I whizzed it up using the immersion blender and plopped in the shrimp. The shrimp essentially poached in the soup, and I finished my bowls with the queso fresco called for in the recipe, along with some cubed avocado, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

The soup turned out thick and deeply flavorful with a surprising amount of spice, thanks to the chipotle chiles and chorizo. The shrimp were a nice addition, but I don't think the soup needed them at all; the beans, chips, and cheese made for a hearty soup that left me happily sated and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

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Cook the Book: Rick Bayless's Black Bean Soup

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About This Recipe

Yield:4
This recipe appears in: 1 Stalk Fennel = ?

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (1 1/2 cups) dried black beans, picked over
  • 12 cups water
  • 6 ounces (about 1 link) Mexican-style chorizo, casing removed and crumbled
  • 1 stalk fennel, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined if necessary
  • 5 corn tostadas, broken up or a handful of corn tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or cheddar cheese

Procedures

  1. 1

    In a large pot, place the beans and cover with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat off and let the beans sit for 1 hour. Drain.

  2. 2

    Return the beans to the pot and cover with the remaining 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, stir in the chorizo, fennel, onion, and chipotle chiles in adobo, partially cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

  3. 3

    Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches if necessary, and blend until it forms a smooth puree. Return the soup to the pot, add the salt and pepper, stir, and heat over medium heat until hot, then add the shrimp and cook until they are orange-red, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve the soup in individual bowls garnished with the tostadas and crumbled cheese.

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