Black Bean Soup
Serves 8 t0 10
As the temperature took a plunge this week, I started craving a bowl of hot soup. I was feeling adventurous and decided to try making a black bean soup in a slow cooker. I maximized my prep time by cutting up all the vegetables while the bacon was rendering. I chose to use both celery root and fennel for a more complex flavor, but you can leave them out if you prefer. I gilded the lily by adding the hominy/cooked pozole corn or sweet corn and the tomatoes. Finish the soup by garnishing it with avocado, Mexican crema, chopped green onions and a sprinkling of cilantro. This soup freezes very well without the garnishes.
1/2 pound slab smoked bacon cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 1/2 pound sliced bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups onions, small dice
1 1/2 cups celery root, peeled and cut in a small dice (optional)
1 1/2 cups fennel, cored and stalks remove, cut into a small dice (optional)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
3 to 4 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and finely chopped
1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 28 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
2 cups well drained hominy or cooked pozole * or sweet corn
2 to 3 tablespoons adobo canning sauce
1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
2 large avocados, diced
6 green onions, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Place a stovetop-rated slow cooker liner over medium-low heat. (If your slow cooker liner isn’t made from a material that can be used on a stovetop, use a very large (12-inch) non-stick skillet.) Add the bacon in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally until the bacon is crisp, about 20 minutes. If you're using the sliced bacon, remove 1/2 to use as part of your garnish. Leave 1/4 cup of the bacon drippings in the bottom of the pan and remove the rest. Raise the temperature to medium-high and add the onions, celery root, fennel (if you're using them) and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat the vegetables. Add the garlic after about 10 minutes and continue cooking until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. If you're using a skillet, transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker and stir in the chipotles, black beans, broth and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the beans are tender.
At the end of the cooking time, remove and discard the bay leaves. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then stir back in along with the drained tomatoes and the hominy/pozole/corn. If the soup is too thick, add water to adjust the consistency, usually about 1 1/2 cups. Taste and adjust the seasonings with adobo sauce and additional salt. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes until all the flavors meld together.
Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of crema. Sprinkle on the diced avocado, green onions, cilantro and the reserved crispy bacon.
* Testing Notes: If there's a Mexican grocery in your neighborhood, you should be able to find cooked pozole corn there, otherwise use sweet corn.