It’s been the perfect storm: a combination of writer’s block, holiday derailment and the stomach flu. That means spotty (uh, I mean no) blog coverage. It also means that I’ve scaled back soupapolooza! to a monthly exercise instead of a weekly one. You see, as much as the soup has saved me (thank you very much, Julie and Julia) it has also broken me. And as I am already morally destitute, I can’t really afford to be penniless, too. I kind of kid. Honestly, I’m pulling back a bit because of the crazy holiday schedule and because I’m working on some very exciting projects. But never you fear! I’m still souping and will be souping on an even larger scale in the coming months (hint hint)...please stay tuned.
We did have our now monthly gathering this Sunday last* and we had a special visitor-- my college pal, LC: kind of like Lauren Conrad (also LC) of “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” fame, only slightly smarter and without a franken-boob sidekick and her fame-whoring husband Spencer. My LC is a badass. Even if she doesn’t have her own reality series, which, of course, all the best people do. But I digress.
Anywho, I was thinking, here it is December in LA, and it’s kind of, well, weathery, which is strange, so how will I keep my guests warm in my mostly concrete and unheated cavernous loft? Why chiles and black beans, of course, with masa harina dumplings. The menu started with Bossy’s grandmother’s guacamole recipe and a salad of spicy greens with an anchovy vinaigrette and reggiano parmesan. Then there was the soup, and finally, cinnamon ice cream and homemade buttermilk doughnuts. Semi-sweet Bitters made his famous flaming rum punch, which not only heated the place up with its fire-code breaking insanity, but also with its percentage of pure alcohol, which was truly festive and delicious. If not responsible for my ensuing diarrhea of the mouth.
All I can say is after weeks of footloose (apologies to Kevin Bacon) and fancy and soup-free Sundays, I was totally rusty. Thank God LC was there to do my evil culinary bidding. She decapitated buckets of onions and fried dough like she had been working every summer at Renaissance Faires in corseted attire at the funnel cake booth. It was almost poetic. And totally busty, naturally.
Having another pair of hands in the kitchen was also nice because it gave me the opportunity to actually eat on a soupapolooza! Sunday...usually I wake up on Monday and realize that the only thing in my stomach is flat champagne. But LC and I were able to have a lovely little snack of french bread, truffle cheese and some charcuterie with our lunchtime bubbles, and it made for a considerably happier hostess later in the evening.
So here is the soup 411 (or 911 depending on your point of view):
Frijoles Negros con Chochoyotes
In Mexico, this dish is made with xonequi, a leafy green grown in Veracruz. Swiss chard is the best substitute. Check your local Mexican grocer for epazote, a fragrant herb traditionally paired with black beans.
1⁄2 lb. dried black beans
1 1⁄3 cups white masa harina
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 dried chipotle chiles
1 dried ancho chile
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. swiss chard
1 sprig fresh epazote (optional)
Place beans in 4 cups cold water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain and replace water. Simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 45 minutes.
Combine masa harina, salt, and 1⁄2 cup hot water in a small bowl. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes, then cover and set aside for 1 hour.
Rinse chiles, then place in a bowl, cover with hot water, and soak until soft, 15–20 minutes. Drain and carefully remove stems, veins, and seeds (see Handling Chiles). Purée with onions and garlic in a blender or food processor. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add purée, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Wash chard in several changes of water and discard stalks. Cook in a pot of salted boiling water over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 4 cups cooking liquid.
Add chile purée, chard, and reserved liquid to beans. Cook over low heat until warm. Roll dough into 1" balls; dent each in the middle; add to soup. Add epazote, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove epazote. Serve hot.
This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #12
The dumplings were not great. Actually they weren’t even good, which was a big disappointment. I’m not sure why they were so heavy, like hockey pucks, but they were. If I were to make the soup again, I would add one cup of creme fraiche (side note: please see the South Park Episode if you haven’t already and you’re not easily offended, which clearly you are not considering you are reading this blog) to the water and masa harina mixture. And I would make sure to just simmer-- do not let the dough boil all willy nilly-- as to get a lighter dumpling. Or you can always use my herbed dumplings recipe on epicurious (hello, personal plug) and substitute the all-purpose flour with the masa harina. But you’re only allowed to do so if you intend to give me four forks in the review.
I chose to garnish with cilantro, creme fraiche, chipotle Tabasco and tortilla chips, which was a very good call. I’m nothing if not an over-doer.
So that’s all for now, I’ve got Christmas gifts to buy and childhood dreams to dash (my niece and nephew totally got shafted in the Aunt department). But I’ll be back soon with more tales of dating and culinary woe, I’m quite sure. Who knows, there might even be a Christmas posting of the cinnamon ice cream and doughnuts in the very near future. In the meantime...
Soup On! And Happy Holidays (yes I said Holidays and not Christmas, you can put me solidly on the naughty list)!
*editor’s note: this was actually TWO Sundays ago...it took me that long to push the button to post this.
AND: Thanks to LC for the beautiful photos, even if she missed the money shot, aka the frying of the doughnuts. She was too busy pretending to be the Dunkin Doughnuts dude, minus the ‘stache, of course.