Black Bean Soup

Makes 8 quarts

From Millicent Souris/Roebling Tea Room

[Ed: We were thrilled that our pal Millicent was able to flex her soup muscles for us in Brooklyn. And I’m more thrilled that she has sent us the recipe for this smoky, spicy soup, as the note I have from her re: the ingredients says it’s made with “chicken stock and some pork ideas.” I’ve been scratching my head over that for a month – but now it all makes sense! Says Millicent, in her email, “Sorry for the very Elizabeth David aspect of this recipe but, sometimes, that’s how it goes.” No worries on this end, hon.]


3 poblano peppers
2 medium yellow onions, diced small
1 tablespoon bacon or chicken fat, or oil if you must
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
a little bacon
3 cups black beans
4 quarts chicken stock
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon cumin
vinegar, hot sauce, and/or lime juice


Make chicken stock [Ed: Or buy it.] Smoke some poblanos, about 3. You can do this on your grill or on your stove top using soaked wood chips in a pan and a rack on top of them. Put the poblanos on the rack and then cover them with foil and poke some holes in the foil and put your burners on low. Check the peppers after half an hour, they can go for a while. Peel and deseed them.

Cut 2 medium sized yellow onions to a small dice. Saute in a stock pot, preferably in bacon or chicken fat. Oil is fine too. Saute them until they are translucent, and then add a few chopped cloves of garlic, 3 diced carrots and four diced stems of celery. I like to add little ends of bacon that won’t work on the meat slicer or smoked pig skin or hock at this point. It adds a lot to this soup, and you pull it out later. Let your mire poix saute for a bit until it becomes fragrant. Salt and pepper.

Black beans. I don’t like canned black beans, they seem like industrialized farts. Soak about 3 cups of black beans the night before (why isn’t this written at the beginning of the recipe?) or do a quickie soak with warm water. You always want to sort through your beans for rocks before you soak them. Any bean, especially lentils. The world will not end if you have to do a quickie soak because you are pureeing this soup, so the integrity of the bean is not in question. Shape wise that is. (By the way, I really don’t know how many cups of beans to add. I know when I taste it if I need to add more stock, I don’t want it too beany tasting) Strain your beans and rinse them. Add them to the pot. Also chop up and add your smoked poblano. You can also use fresh poblanos or jalapenos even.

Cover the beans with chicken stock and water. (Feel free to use more chicken stock than water.) More than cover the beans. You can really crank it at this point to get the beans done. If you have the luxury of time, by all means take it. If you are trying to get this soup done in time for lunch service, turn the heat up pretty high and go for it. Always check it and stir to see if it’s sticking and also to check on the thickness of the soup. This is not a really thick soup. Toast some coriander seed and cumin and grind it. Let’s say a tablespoon of each. Put it in.

You do want to turn this soup down to a simmer for a while. I like to crank the heat to get it going, and then turn it down. Once, I burned it, and I felt the pain of a wasted day. Let me be the one who feels this pain, not you.

You have a Cuisinart, right? You know the dangers of blending really hot liquids, right? Let the soup cool a bit, or if you are a real daredevil go for it, just keep a clean kitchen towel on top of the Cuisinart to absorb the hot bean soup that’s going to spout out of it. Godsakes don’t look down the Cuisinart tube at it while you are blending it. You might go blind. Blend your soup in batches. Pull out whatever pork pieces you have in there. I dump the blended soup through a sieve to get a good smooth texture, so there are no weird bean fragments. Use a spoon or ladle to push soup through.

Look at the soup. Is it too thin? Too much liquid to bean? Put it on a low simmer to reduce. Taste the soup. It probably needs salt and pepper and acid. Generally dried beans are not cooked with salt. I like to add a spicy vinegar (a hot sauce will do, but I use the brine from pickled jalapenos) and some lime juice to the soup.

There you have it. Serve it with crema and chips. Or biscuits. [Ed: At the Bell House Millicent served with all three: crema, tortilla chips, and a pan of flaky cheddar biscuits.]


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