I know we’ve all got spring fever; being cooped up in our homes watching snowfall after snowfall through the windows is making us all a little crazy. So do I wish I had something really spring-y to share with you? Of course. But alas, it has been nothing but cold here and soup is still the order of the day. Luckily this soup is so fantastic I would cheerfully recommend making it on the hottest day of summer.
This was my first time making dried beans in the slow cooker and I am happy to say it went beautifully. I still started it on the cooktop, as I have always boiled my beans for about 5 minutes before slowly simmering them. Also, the acidic and salty parts of the flavoring need to be added later as dried beans will not cook properly in salt or acid (i.e., tomatoes), so they do require a second pot in addition to the slow cooker. But I would still call this a wonderful way to use the slow cooker; the beans were (before I blitzed them anyway) perfectly intact and creamy.
This soup is this blog’s 3rd version of Borrachos, or drunken beans. Borrachos is a Mexican bean soup made with alcohol. Traditionally I have seen beer, as in the present recipe and this Borrachos. However, I have also made them with tequila, as in this red bean soup that needed “rescuing” after I realized the tequila was too strong for us! This version is, I believe, the best version yet. I prefer the gentle earthiness of the lager, and the fire roasted tomatoes provide brightness and sweetness. Everyone in the family loved this soup, and we ate to the last drop. When I ran out of bacon (because of course everyone always takes more bacon than they should), I switched to tortilla chips for some salty crunch and they were outstanding as well.
- For the beans:
- 1 lb dried red beans such as rio zape
- 1/2 lb dried small white beans such as alubia blanca
- 1-2 T bacon grease
- 1 onion chopped
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 12- oz bottle of Mexican lager
- water to cover by 4 inches
- 1 t sea salt
- For the soup:
- 1/2 lb bacon cooked until crispy and set aside
- 1-2 T bacon grease
- 2 onions chopped
- 1 sweet bell pepper chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves minced
- 2 t cumin
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 t ancho chile powder
- 1/2 t mexican oregano
- 1-4 T red wine vinegar to deglaze maybe more than once
- 1 15- oz can fire roasted tomatoes
- salt red wine vinegar and honey to taste
- for garnish: chopped cilantro sour cream, hot sauce, chile pepper flakes, crumbled bacon, queso fresco (we used feta), tortilla chips
Place the first 7 ingredients into your slow cooker insert (or a cooktop safe pot). Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. (Make sure the beans are covered by 4 inches of water--if they cannot be, check on them after 2 hours or so, as much of the water will be absorbed and they will need more water.)
When the beans are mostly or completely tender, add the teaspoon of salt. Keep cooking on low while you prepare the rest of the soup.
Using a large, heavy skillet (I used my 12 inch Le Creuset pan), fry the bacon in batches until it is all crispy. As it cools, crumble it and set aside in a bowl.
When you are done, pour off all but 1-2 T of the bacon fat. On medium high heat, add the 2 chopped onions with a pinch of salt. Let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped bell pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes. If it starts to stick or scorch anywhere, add a splash of red wine vinegar to deglaze and scrape the bottom of the pan.
Add the garlic, spices and dried oregano. Stir and add more vinegar if necessary. After 1-2 minutes, when it is fragrant and all vinegar liquid has cooked off, add the fire roasted tomatoes.
Let fry, simmering briskly, for 5 minutes.
Add this mixture to the slow cooker and continue cooking on low for another 2 hours or on high for another hour.
When you are ready to serve, use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup (or blend part of the soup in a food processor or blender). Please note: if you use an immersion blender in your slow cooker insert be very careful that it does not touch the insert as it may scratch it.
Taste the soup for additional salt or red wine vinegar, or even a drizzle (1-2 T) of honey if you think it needs it.
Serve ladled into bowls and topped with chopped cilantro, queso fresco (or feta), sour cream and the reserved crumbled bacon. Tortilla chips, hot sauce and red chile pepper flakes can be served on the side.
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