black bean soup with roasted squash
Norman Van Aken, © 2011
Yield: 12 Cups
6 ounces smoky bacon, diced
2 Tablespoons pure olive oil
1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 Tablespoons toasted and ground cumin seeds (see page 9)
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 Cup Spanish dry sherry
2 Cups black beans, rinsed, soaked overnight in water to cover, and drained
1 smoked ham hock
3 quarts Chicken Stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the calabaza:
2 pounds calabaza, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces (you can substitute acorn or another winter squash)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the crema:
1 Cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds (see page 9)
To prepare the beans, cook the bacon in the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until beginning to crisp. Stir in the Scotch bonnet and garlic. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and stir to coat. Let the vegetables caramelize, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Add the cumin, bay leaves, and sherry, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, ham hock, and stock and bring to a simmer. Skim the impurities off the top, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
In the meantime, prepare the calabaza: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the calabaza, butter, sugar, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan or heavy ovenproof skillet and give them a toss. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender when poked with a knife. Set aside in a warm place.
For the crema: Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Remove the bay leaves from the beans. Scoop 2 1/2 cups of the beans and their broth into a blender, and puree. Pour back into the pot—this will give the soup more body—stir well, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper. Fold in the calabaza and cook for 5 more minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a spoonful of crema in each. A little Madeira is a nice option.