Black bean soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and I am always on the lookout for different ways to prepare it. While researching recipes I ran across this one several years ago on what was recipezaar (now food.com). The combination of Caribbean spices and a little heat from cayenne make for a flavor combination that is out of this world. I decided to make the soup a more filling meal by adding a protein. Frozen chicken breasts are an ingredient that we usually have on hand, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs or the shredded meat off of a store bought rotisserie chicken would also work.
I really like to use dried beans when I have the time as they are so tasty, especially when cooked with a few flavor enhancing ingredients like bay leaves and ham hocks. One advantage to dried black beans over other types of beans is their small size. Because of this they don’t need to be soaked overnight. One disadvantage to cooking dried black beans is that they can turn a rather unappetizing shade of gray. By adding a tiny amount of baking soda to the cooking liquid you can keep them mostly black. No matter what you do though some of the color will leach out. If you are time crunched, substituting 4 (15-ounce) cans of drained and rinsed black beans will make the soup much quicker to get on the table.
A squeeze of lime juice across your bowl of soup is a must as this little bit of acidity really allows the flavors to shine. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro. Serve with a salad and a Red Stripe or Caribe lager for a complete meal.
For the black beans:
1 pound dried black beans
1 smoked ham hock or 2 pieces of smoked pork neck bones
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups water
For the soup:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 cups chicken stock, low sodium
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground corriander
3/4 teaspoon celery seed (or celery salt)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh squeezed lime juice
fresh chopped cilantro
Sort the beans and place them in a 4-6 quart pot. Add the ham hock, bay leaves, salt, baking soda and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the beans are soft but not mushy and falling apart. Remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Drain the beans into a colander. Remove the meat from the ham hock and chop into small pieces.
Into an 8-quart stock pot or Dutch oven add the drained black beans, the meat from the ham hock and the rest of the soup ingredients (except the chicken). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the chicken and simmer for an additional 15 – 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Serve with sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
serves 6 – 8
adapted from Costa Rican Black Bean Soup by Enjolinfam at food.com