With the weather finally starting to dip into the low 60’s (oh gosh, I really have lived in the US for too long!) … I mean teens, it’s officially the season for baking and soup-making in our apartment again. Finally, the oven can stay on for more than 10 minutes without creating a 650 square foot sauna. (Do I hear a roasted beets cheer?)
I haven’t been going crazy or anything, but there has been much more in both departments, whether it be my favorite grainy muffins, or trying new soup recipes. Unfortunately, my last two trials were a little disappointing. (Lesson number one: don’t use light coconut milk in soups, and lesson number two, as good as the idea of a spicy eggplant and peanut stew sounds, I still prefer peanuty stews of this variety. Eggplant is easily overshadowed.
Wanting a soup worthy of this new “season,” (all we can call them here in SoCal) I turned to a book that hasn’t let me down yet: The Daily Soup Cookbook. Full of delicious-looking recipes from old standbys to exotic stews, I grabbed some dried beans that a friend gave me when she left town a year ago (!) and turned to the bean chapter.
I always learn something when I cook soups from this book. This time, I learned that when it comes to making a bean soup, it’s best to just cook the beans right in there with the rest of the ingredients. Apparently, this reconstitutes the beans using broth, as opposed to pumping them full of plain, boring water. The starch from the beans also leaks out into the surrounding liquid, thickening the soup. Unfortunately, I had already started soaking my beans before I read this step, but I’ve made a note for next time.
Despite yielding a really tasty finished product, the soup turned out to be more of a project than I’d intended. It’s WAY harder than it should be to find chorizo sausage if you live on the stretch of beach highway between Cardiff and Encinitas, as I do. I had everything I needed except bacon and sausage, so I walked down to our cute little local grocery store. In response to my chorizo inquiry, one of the meat counter employees asked “Spanish or Mexican?” “Spanish, I think,” I responded. He led me to a bunch of dry-cured salamis. I gave him a sceptical look. He then led me to the Mexican chorizo, packaged up as one long link.
When I got the supposed chorizo home, the package informed me that I had to remove the casing before cooking or eating. I dug a knife into the end to begin removing the casing, and something resembling a chunky sauce spurted out all over the counter. I quickly dumped it into a pan to cook it, where it turned even more soupy. Apparently, in Mexico, chorizo sausage means really runny chili. Duly noted.
I headed back out, this time to the Encinitas Whole Foods, thinking surely they’d be able to help. Of the eight or so house-made sausages they had behind the counter, none were chorizo. So I asked. “We don’t have it right now, but I can make some for you.” Score! I returned 10 minutes later, as instructed, and was handed a package of what looked like ground beef. I asked why it wasn’t in sausage form, and the reply was simply, “this variety doesn’t come as links.” Ohhhhh-k. The guy had taken the time to grind and season the pork for me, so I wasn’t going to argue with him. It didn’t look like tomato sauce, so I paid for it and took it home. (I later read “natural pork casings” on the ingredients list. Grrrr. Is it too much to ask, people?)
So with the help of my more meat-savvy partner, I made teeny tiny meatballs to poach in lieu of the sliced chorizo. A friend declared it acceptable, and even delicious. I’ll get you next time, chorizo sausage!
Galician* White Bean with Chorizo
makes 12 cups
1 pound chorizo sausage
6 cups water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large Spanish onion
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb Great Northern beans, rinsed (I used Cannellini and some stray lentils, because that’s what I had)
2 medium potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used one sweet potato because I didn’t have enough)
6 cups vegetable stock or mineral water
1 bunch radish leaves, chopped (I used kale)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped scallions
- Combine the chorizo and water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and poach for 10 minutes. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon, reserving 2 cups of the poaching liquid. When cool enough to handle, slice the chorizo into rounds and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute for 10 minutes, until golden brown and the fat is rendered.
- Add the onion, carrots, and 2 of the garlic cloves and saute for 4 minutes, until tender.
- Add the thyme, paprika, bay leaves, and pepper and stir to coat the vegetables.
- Add the reserved poaching liquid, beans, potatoes, and stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.
- Stir in the sliced chorizo and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the radish leaves, vermouth, and salt and remaining garlic cloves.
- Remove bay leaves, ladle into bowls, and top with chopped scallions.
*Galicia is an autonomous community in northwest Spain, with the official status of a nationality. It’s bordered by Portugal to the south, the Spanish autonomous communities of Castile and León and Asturias to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the north.