You might ask how this soup has anything to do with beer, as you will notice it has no beer in it. Well, as I mentioned in my How I Got Cooking post, going to restaurants is, for me, primarily about finding inspiration for dishes. So it was with this soup.
About fifteen or so years ago, we were visiting New Holland Brewing (Holland, Michigan’s first microbrewery) for some of their stellar beer and a meal (they do a great job with their restaurant, too). I noticed they had an intriguing chili on the menu that night that was based on black beans and chorizo (no doubt it was made with one of their beers, as well). It was delicious, and I immediately made plans to try to create my own version.
Before I could get around to experimenting with said chili recipe, I happened to be thumbing through one of my Rachael Ray cookbooks. (Rachael is another one of my primary inspirations – I love her philosophy that quick to prepare meals don’t have to be boring. I probably consult her cookbooks for ideas at least as much as Joy of Cooking). I came across her recipe for Black Bean “Stoup” (a sort of cross between a soup and a stew). It sounded great as is, but then I remembered that chili I had recently. What if I did a soup that was kind of a cross between the two?
And so my black bean chorizo soup was born. I have tweaked it over the years, and it makes a pretty regular appearance at lunch at our house.
Now, some notes about the recipe. It was kind of difficult for me to quantify the spices, since, for most of my cooking (outside of baking), I abandoned measuring years ago. I pretty much cook “from the hip” these days. So definitely begin cautiously, especially with the chili powders, until you find your happy place.
Also, please be sure to use smoked paprika. Regular paprika will not produce anywhere near the depth of flavor. (I probably need to seek help for my obsessive love of this spice, but humor me here.)
About the chorizo – this recipe uses Mexican chorizo. (There are two types of chorizo, Mexican, which is the raw fresh version, and Spanish, the smoked type.) They are very different and not interchangeable. Also, when it comes to Mexican chorizo, you may have to experiment to find your favorite brand – like all sausage, even the same types don’t taste the same from brand to brand. My personal favorite is “El Popular”.
This recipe also introduces one of my favorite cooking hacks – bouillon cubes. Whenever you have a recipe calling for bouillon or stock, you can use bouillon cubes and water – the usual ratio is one cube per cup of water. (I use four here as there is liquid in addition to the water from the tomatoes and beans). In this case, you don’t even have to boil the cubes in water separately – just add them and the water to the rest of the ingredients, and they will dissolve and incorporate as you boil and stir.
Finally, the proportions of beans, meat and vegetables here are what I’ve come to prefer over the years. Soup, like chili, is a very personal thing, and the dish won’t “fail” if you want to use more chorizo, or more beans, etc. Do not, however, skip the step of sauteing the vegetables in the spices before adding to the rest of the soup. It really makes a difference in flavor development.
Black Bean Chorizo Soup
- 3/4 to 1 pound mexican chorizo
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 jalepeno or serrano pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped. (Remove more of the membranes if you want less heat).
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 15 oz cans black beans
- 4 beef boullion cubes
- 2 to 3 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 to 2 tsp chipotle chili powder
- 1 to 2 tsp ancho chili powder
- 3 cups water
- Brown chorizo in a fry pan over medium heat, remove with slotted spoon and place in a soup pot. Retain the drippings from the chorizo in the fry pan.
- While chorizo is browning, chop the celery, bell pepper, onion, jalepeno/serrano and garlic.
- Drain the liquid from the diced canned tomatoes into the soup pot with the browned chorizo.
- Add olive oil to chorizo drippings in fry pan, then add chopped vegetables and diced tomatoes. Add smoked paprika, chipotle and ancho chili powders and saute until vegetables begin to soften.
- Drain one can of black beans, discarding liquid. Add to soup pot. Add the other can of black beans, undrained, to the soup pot. Add beef boullion cubes to soup pot.
- Add sauted vegetable mixture to the soup pot, then add the water.
- Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally about 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft.