Thursday, April 04, 2013

Pinto Bean Soup

It's a cool and rainy day here in the Northern burbs of Atlanta and a perfect day for a hearty bean soup. Here is a nice and easy recipe for Pinto Bean Soup that I just put on to cook nice and slow over the afternoon. Of course, you can pretty much use any bean you want but I like pinto beans for this recipe.

You'll need a 16 oz. bag of dried pinto beans that you have rinsed and then soaked overnight in 2 quarts of water to which 2 tablespoons of sea salt have been added. I find the salt in the soak water helps the texture of the cooked beans kind of like brining meat. If you don't have the luxury of overnight soaking which I find is best you can always use the "quick soak" method.

In a nice heavy bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron soup pot mix the soaked beans that have been drained of what's left of the soaking water with:

1 pound of diced smoked ham (today I am using Tasso because I have it.)
About 7-8 cups of H2O (you'll want to cover the beans by about an inch or so)
1 Tablespoon of coarse sea salt or Kosher salt (I use the gray coarse sea salt from France)
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 large onion minced fairly fine
4 cloves of fresh garlic also minced
1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
a few grinds of black pepper maybe a teaspoon

Put the pot over low heat and cover and cook slowly for 2 -3 hours until the beans are nice and tender. If you do this early in the day and the soup is ready before your dinner time just turn off the heat and let it sit on the back of the stove until dinner time and reheat, which is what I will do today. It will make it even better.  Note: depending on your soaking method and other factors you may need less or more water. Check the pot every once in a while and add a little more H2O if it is getting too thick or if you think is too watery then leave the lid off for a while.

This sounds like a lot of garlic but it gets very mild with the slow cooking and it really makes the soup shine. If you would like to put a little spin on this and you used the smoked ham and not Tasso then add a tablespoon of Smoked Spanish Paprika about an hour or so into the cooking.  If you like a little more zing then a bit of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes are nice addition. Madam has a low tolerance for spicy so I usually don't add it to the whole pot and just add a bit of Sriracha to my bowl. A nice dollop or two of fresh salsa is really good as well.

This will make an excellent dinner for a cool and rainy day especially with some good buttermilk cornbread. Here is the link for my go to cornbread recipe. It's "Southern" style which means that there is more cornmeal than flour whereas "Northern" style is usually equal parts flour and cornmeal and a little "cakier" than this recipe.

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