Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tarascan Bean Soup

This is probably the most well known native bean soup recipes, just about another who authors a book on Mexican food or ingredients has a version of it.  The one comes from a nice little book authored by famous southwestern and native style chef Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe entitled The Great Chile Book, written with John Harrisson and featuring the wonderful photography of Lois Ellen Frank (Kiowa) [I'm a big fan!].  It is a great source on both fresh and dried chiles, 90% of which are native to the New World.  It also have a few easy to follow recipes in the back.  The word "Tarascan" is actually Nahuatl, it translates into English as "fierce people."  They gave these people that name because they were the only group in there native territory of Michoacan who the "Aztecs" actively tried to conquer and never could; they were also the very last native group to fall to the Spanish.  They call themselves Purepecha, and they are right a very proud, independent group of people.  Almost all their restaurants feature menus that are tri-lingual.  In Spanish, English and Purepecha.  They use a bean native to this region in Mexico, but I favor Miller's recipe, not only because it is easy to follow, but also used ingredients that pretty easy to find.  He does mention that it taste most authentic when you use the native Pasilla de Oaxaca, which can be ordered, but he quick to name easily found substitutes.  Fried strips of tortilla often garnish this soup; slices of avocado and sliced radish also.

Pasilla de Oaxaca

Tarascan (that is Purepecha) Bean Soup

1/2 lb. dried red kidney beans (that's about 1 1/4 cups)
2 sprigs epazote, chopped (optional) (you can use dried)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. toasted dried oregano (my note:  obviously Mexican oregano is best but
    regular can be used)
1/2 large white onion, sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Roma style tomatoes
2 cloves toasted garlic
2 tbsp. pureed chipotle in adobo
2 Pasilla de Oaxaca, stemmed (or ancho or mulatos)
1/2 cup peanut oil
8 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, but into 4 slices

1.  Place the beans in a saucepan with epazote (if you are using it), salt and the oregano.  Add enough water to cover.  Cover the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the beans soft.  Add more water as necessary.

2.  Saute the onions lightly in the olive oil.

3.  Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.  Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds.  Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.  Transfer them a blender and add in the cooked beans, garlic, onions and chipotle puree, blend.  If it is too thick, add extra water.  Pass this through a sieve or (better yet) a food mill.

4.  Heat soup over low heat in a saucepan.  Meanwhile light fry the chiles in the peanut oil for a few seconds, until just soft (and fragrant) and then cut them into strips.  Add the slices of cheese and chiles to the soup and season with salt to taste (if needed).  When cheese is melted, ladle soup into heated bowls.

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