Wednesday, January 28, 2009

{Simple Soup Supper} Union Square Black Bean Soup, two ways

Black bean soup is one of the signature dishes at the Union Square Cafe in New York. When I ate there a year ago, I ordered this soup. It was extraordinarily good. Imagine my joy when I discovered an online recipe for the soup! [edit to add the link for the soup recipe] And even greater joy when I was given a copy of the Union Square Cafe Cookbook.

So the week before last, with temperatures dipping into the single digits (yes, here in Georgia), I decided it was the perfect time to make this soup.

n.o.e. notes

- I was very tempted to brown the veggies and bacon for a bit, but the recipe says to throw it all in a pot with water and the black beans, then pop it in the oven for, oh, 4 hours or so. That's what I did.

- The recipe calls for a 3-quart pot. After reading the recipe, I was dubious about the size, but figured surely the cookbook knows how much it makes. I used my 3-quart le Creuset-wanna-be Lodge pot and sure enough there was no way 2 quarts of water were going to fit in that baby with all the other ingredients. 6 cups were the limit. I ended up adding a little bit more as the soup cooked down. Luckily, the soup didn't seem to need the full 8 cups.

- I used Benton's bacon (of course!) While the soup cooked, the smoky aroma of the bacon just filled the house.

- I loved the technique of baking this soup. It totally eliminates any question of soup sticking to the bottom of the pot. Just pop it in the oven and forget about it. I imagine this recipe could be made in a slow cooker.

- After the soup comes out of the oven the directive is to "puree the beans with their cooking liquid." What about the veggies? and the bacon??? do they get to come along for for a whirl in the blender? Pureeing boiled bacon sounded kind of weird to me. I shot off a quick email to the restaurant asking them about that pureeing step. And whether I should have sauteed the veggies and bacon in the beginning. And the restaurant actually emailed me back!!! How cool is that??? And here's the scoop: the recipe does mean for us to just throw everything into the pot in an uncooked condition, but in the actual restaurant the chefs "show a little love" by sauteeing everything first (well, not the black beans.) And yes, according to the chef, we are supposed to blend everything together at the end.

- I used my new immersion blender that Santa brought me for Christmas. Boy is that thing effective! As it turns out, after 4 hours in the oven, the bacon is so softened that it blends just as well as everything else.

- My husband Jim was there (with a spoon) when I took the pot out of the oven and he fell out over* the taste. He didn't want me to puree it, and suggested that we leave some unblended and compare it to the blended. A taste test! I'm all in.

the verdict:

This is a very nice black bean soup. The smokiness of the Benton's comes through as well as the flavors of all the veggies, complemented by the shot of sherry that gets added to the bowl at serving time. I served this with a salad and the Mesa Grill corn muffins. Ha, recipes from two NYC restaurants!

We both tasted the soup both ways - pureed and un-pureed. My husband preferred his un-pureed, saying, "the mastication process infuses the taste into my olfactory facilities," which in turn made it taste better. I kinda agree with him about the taste thing, but if I'm going to have black bean soup I just want it pureed. Easy as that.

* "fell out over" in common parlance means to disagree about something. My very Southern mother-in-law, however, always uses the phrase to mean "liked something very much."


Cathy said...

I am SO SO glad that you posted this! I also got a fun new immersion blender for Christmas and have been on the prowl for recipes where I could use it. I think my family has been afraid that I am going to start pureeing their morning cereal right there at the kitchen table if I don't find some great new soup recipes soon! Now that you've posted this FABULOUS sounding soup, their cereal is safe for another day. I LOVE the cooking technique here.

pinkstripes said...

I love my immersion blender. I love black bean soup too. Thanks for sharing.

Maria said...

We have an immersion blender and I love it! Such a fun toy!! The soup looks super tasty!!

Reeni♥ said...

Black Bean soup is a favorite of mine. This looks really delicious!! It has such a long cooking time. Do you think it would work in a slow cooker? How nice of them to e-mail you back!!

bakingwiththeboys said...

I love soup, especially bean soup. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I just ate vegetable soup for lunch and have split pea soup in the crock pot waiting for dinner. I am so glad you posted the taste test because I generally prefer unpureed soups. Good to know I am not alone.

Jen said...

Thanks for checking out my blog! All of your dishes look great!!

So many people on 31 do Tuesdays...I just can't have a desert in my house every week! CEIMB has been the perfect pick...healthy food that i feel good about making!

I will definitely have to keep checking out what you are cooking!

Donna-FFW said...

OOHHHH!! Yeah! A new use for my new immersion blender. This soup looks gorgeous!! Photos are perfect!!! Thanks!

Audrey said...

I won't fall out over falling out over this looks so good! And I would want it pureed too. And since I'm still getting used to having a gas stove again, baking a soup has to be right up my alley. AND I want an immersion blender...Great post!