Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Add hock

This soup was a daring(!) experiment(!) for me in a couple of ways:
  • My first time using dried beans instead of canned
  • My first time adding a ham hock to something
I always thought dried beans were too much of a hassle, what with the soaking and ... I'm not really sure what else I thought was involved. Because soaking, you know, is easy. I think addressing my irrational cooking hang-ups is something I'm comfortable doing more of since I'm at a point in my evolution as a cook where I accept that a lot of ingredients are pretty forgiving. Or, rather, I'm better at discerning which ones are forgiving and which aren't and then acting accordingly. Dried beans = extremely forgiving.

I rinsed and picked over the beans because everything that I read said to, but my bag of Goya black turtle beans did not include a single nonperfect bean nor any non-bean items. Then I put the beans in the pot I was going to use for the soup, added cold water until it was about two inches over the beans, covered the pot and went out to watch the debate at a friend's place. I was using Laurie Colwin's black bean soup recipe as a guide and she says that you only need to soak the beans for an hour, but I didn't want to make soup in an hour. I wanted to make it the next morning. So I did. Forgiving.

I was always a little afraid of ham hocks and just left them out of anything that called for them — hoppin' john is the first thing that comes to mind. [OMG — just realized that I can make super-awesome split pea soup now that The Hock and I have joined forces] I didn't really know what they were or how you dealt with them and I assumed that they'd be really expensive. It turns out that like look like this:
and cost less than two dollars at the butcher I go to. And you deal with them by putting them in the pot with whatever you're cooking:
and they turn it even more delicious and yield tiny bits of meat that you can put back in the soup if you can resist eating them all as you dissemble the hock. There were still some bristles on the skin though, so if that's the kind of thing that puts you off your feed, assign someone else to hock duty.
I can't stop saying hock. Hock hock hock.

Two irrational food hang-ups felled in one swoop! One humbled blogger left in the wake, vowing to try actually doing stuff before declaring it difficult or fussy or not worth the trouble! And I had some really good soup to show for it.
Black Bean Soup
2 c. dried black beans
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
28-oz. can of diced tomatoes in juice
1 c. water or dark beer (I used water, but I think beer would be extra good)
1 meaty ham hock
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 t. cumin
1 t. hot paprika
2 T. sherry vinegar
plain yogurt for serving.

Wash and pick over the beans. Cover with cold water and soak for one to twelve hours. Drain.

Add all other ingredients, excluding vinegar and yogurt, to pot. Simmer on low for five to seven hours, stirring every once in a while, until beans are tender. Puree all or part of the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender; I pureed it about halfway. Stir in the vinegar. Serve with a big dollop of plain yogurt.

[originally posted on my old food blog 9/29/2008]

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