Sunday, December 28, 2008

Worth the Wait!

I know, I know. It's been a long time. Many the time I've thought, "I really need to go blog this recipe," only to get carried away with other busyness until it just doesn't happen. However, tonight's dinner, Almost Tarascan Bean Soup, was one of those, "I really have to blog this--right NOW!" kinds of meals. If nothing else, it's beautiful. Who doesn't want to get out a spoon and dig in to this on a cold winter night?

Second, it is a great showcase for Rancho Gordo cranberry beans. For whatever reason, it has been taking me forever to get beans cooked to doneness, but I do not hold the fact that I was up until 2 a.m. making this sound against it. Not at all. I really should have known better, the way bean cooking has been going. However, this made a good-sized batch of soup, much more than the 4 servings the recipe states. This would be dead simple to double up and keep in the freezer, and the garnishing steps take only minutes on the night you want to serve it.

While the beans were simmering, plump Roma tomatoes were halved and cooked on heavy foil in a skillet, and turned several times until they began to char. Half an onion was sliced thinly, garlic was minced, and they were sauteed, along with the cooked, chopped tomatoes, until thick and jammy. This mixture is then set aside until the beans are tender. An immersion blender made quick work of the pureeing step. At that point, since we were not up for an early breakfast, I put the soup in the refrigerator, which allowed the flavors time to meld and deepen.

When it was time to eat, I spent the few minutes it took to warm the soup to quickly fry some very thin tortilla strips and thinly sliced ancho chile strips. That's right--fried dried chiles. I was skeptical, but the deep, almost fruity taste of the chiles was an amazing offset to the more staid basic soup. These two items topped the soup that was ladled into the bowls, along with sour cream, queso fresco, and some chopped cilantro. Next time, I'll try to have a lime on hand, as I think the acid would add one more layer of flavor and brightness to the finished dish. Served with warm chips and guacamole on the side, this was a memorable meal that I look forward to having again.

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