Sunday, March 23, 2014

Black Bean Soup and Cornbread

It's been very busy around here lately.  I rarely have a free minute which is why I have not been blogging as much.  The beginning of spring has brought lots of activities in the forms of yard work, house hunting (we are looking to move somewhere with a little more land), raising chicks (we currently have eight in the brooder), and trying to keep up with the usual activities of regular work.  With all of this, there haven't been many new meals coming from the kitchen.  We've just been eating the things we know and love.  

The weather here has also been a little crazy.  Warm and spring-like one day and freezing the next, you never know what to make for dinner.  On one of the cold days a week or so back, I was rummaging through the freezer to see what we had on hand and came across a pack of pork backbones I had bought a while back.  I had also picked up some black beans from the farmers market and had some fabulous coarse cornmeal from Anson Mills.  The resulting meal was satisfying and delicious and provided several dinners for us that week.  

This soup has a deep, underlying pork flavor from the meat and bones, nice spiciness, and a great hybrid texture (part broth, part creaminess from the beans).  It is even better a day or two after it is made.  Served with a sprinkling of sharp cheddar and cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, it makes a hearty meal. Dip or crumble the cornbread into the soup to soak up the yummy broth, and by all means, have a small slice for dessert drizzled with local honey or sorghum syrup.  

Black Bean Soup with Pork Backbones- serves 6

If you want a creamier soup, crush some of the beans with a potato masher once they are tender.  

1 pound pork backbone (or neckbones)
2 tsp olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound black beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked (bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and let stand 1 hour, drain and proceed with recipe)
2 pints chicken stock
1 pint crushed tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chile powder
½ tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1-1 ½ tsp kosher salt to taste
½ tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Roast backbones for 1 hour while beans soak. After 1 hour, remove backbones to a plate.

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add the carrot, celery, and onion, and sauté until tender and onion is translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and chile powder and cook 1 minute.  Add stock to spice vegetable mixture, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Place the backbones in the pot along with the drained beans. Add more water if needed to cover beans completely.  Bring beans to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook 1 to 1 ½ hours until beans are creamy in center but still intact.

Remove backbones from the pot and allow to cool enough to handle.  While backbones are cooling, add tomatoes to beans along with salt and pepper to taste, and cook gently to blend flavors.  Once the meat is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the fat and bones (use fat and bones to make stock later).  Add the shredded meat back to the beans.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve with cilantro on top. 

Black Skillet Cornbread- makes 1 9-inch skillet of cornbread

This recipe is slightly adapted from Anson Mills and should be made with high quality coarse cornmeal.  This cornbread has pure corn flavor since there is no flour or sugar in the recipe.  

12 oz (2½ cups) coarse cornmeal (I used Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal)
1½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
1½ cups milk (do not use skim)
2 tsp cold butter, for the skillet

Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat an empty well-seasoned 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. 

While the skillet heats, turn the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan or in the microwave. Add the butter and milk to the cornmeal mixture and whisk to combine.  Add the egg and whisk again. The batter will be fairly thin. 

Add the remaining cold butter to the hot skillet and tilt to distribute. Scrape the batter into the skillet with a rubber spatula—it should sizzle. Immediately place the skillet on the lower oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. Then, transfer the skillet to the upper rack and continue baking until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Invert the cornbread onto a cutting board so that the crackling side is facing up or leave the bread in the skillet for serving. Cut into wedges and serve with butter, honey, apple butter, or sorghum.

Printable Version of Black Bean Soup

Printable Version of Black Skillet Cornbread