So, a funny thing happened on the way to this black bean soup ...
Namely, that it was BLAZING HOT.
But we'll get to that in a moment.
There used to be a restaurant in town that served a black bean soup that I absolutely loved. (Note: If memory serves, that place might have been Chili's, but I'm not admitting to that, nosirreebob.)
I've been hugely disappointed the past few times I've ordered black bean soup when eating out. One restaurant serves a version that is mostly sad, drowned beans with big, soft chunks of bacon in it—the kind that reminds you of the pork in pork and beans. And you know what? You shouldn't let your child get halfway through the pork and beans before you tell her that she's not supposed to eat the pork. Just sayin'.
The other restaurant served me what was, no joke, suspiciously similar to a can of beans, with their liquid, emptied into a bowl. It was more than a little nauseating. And I ate more than a little too much of it to really feel comfortable telling you this story right now.
While I'm generally a fan of chunky soups, I like my black bean soup smooth and rich. Which could explain why I pureed this one until it was smooth and rich, and then went absolutely overboard with the toppings.
And now we return to the story of the peppers. I've made this soup twice now, once roasting the peppers traditional under-the-broiler way and once popping them into a very hot oven for a bit until the peels relinquished their hold. (I have a very old-school gas oven, and that broiler is terrifying to anyone afraid of fire. Like, say, me.) I am pleased to report that both ways work!
The recipe that this soup is only very very loosely based on called for hatch chiles, but when I went to the grocery store all I could find were jalapeños (meh) and something ominously labeled "long hot green chiles."
You can guess which ones I picked. And you can perhaps guess how hot they were. Best I can tell from The Cook's Thesaurus (which is a fantastic resource, by the way), there's a possibility I made this soup with green cayenne peppers.
WOE TO MY EATERS.
And actually? It was delicious. But it was extremely spicy. For the first batch, I meant to pick up four peppers but somehow made it home with only three. That was to my benefit. For the second batch, I picked up the four peppers because I was doubling the recipe so I knew that I was putting them in TWICE the amount of soup. I ended up having to also double the amount of sour cream to cool things off.
Bottom line? Please do make this soup. It's delicious. I think it'd be fabulous with a side of rice, or with some mild sausage tossed in for the carnivores. Just adjust those peppers to your taste. I'm going to give a broad range in the recipe below, but substitute a milder chile—poblano, serrano, jalapeño—if you'd rather not breathe with your mouth open for the rest of the night.
Fiery Black Bean Soup with Green Cayennes and Cajun Shrimp
1 to 4 long hot green chiles
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
6 ounces center-cut bacon, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground oregano
4 (15.5-ounce) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sour cream
¾ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Garnishes: radish slices, avocado slices, white Cheddar popcorn
1. Preheat broiler. Place chiles on a baking sheet, and broil 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until skins blister. Remove chiles to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with Cajun seasoning until thoroughly coated. Set aside.
3. Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat; add bacon, cooking until browned and crispy. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside.
4. Reduce heat to medium; cook onion and carrots in drippings 5 to 8 minutes or until carrots soften and onions are translucent. Stir in garlic, cumin, and oregano; cook 2 minutes. Add beans and chicken broth, and simmer 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, remove peel, stems, and seeds from reserved chiles; chop. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add reserved shrimp, and cook, turning once, 3 minutes or just until pink. Remove from heat, and set aside.
6. Remove stock pot from heat; stir in sour cream, cilantro, juice of 1½ limes, and chopped chiles. Puree soup with an immersion blender, or a traditional blender working in batches. Serve soup topped with shrimp and reserved cooked bacon; garnish, if desired. Serve with remaining lime half, cut into wedges. Makes 6 servings.