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We recently returned from a trip to New York visiting friends and family. We also played tourist: taking in the view from the Empire State Building by night, visiting Central Park’s bright fall leaves, and sampling local delicacies. We ate bagels, banh mi, brunches, even a local take on poutine and a delicious meal at Prune.

By the time we returned, I was ready to eat only rice, beans, and vegetables for a week. Often after a holiday, vacation, or work trip, I crave simple, healthy food. I lay off the booze for a few days–no glass of wine with dinner or beer to unwind–and overcompensate for buttery and salty restaurant meals with lighter, greener fare.

avocado salsa

This soup was the result of my post-NYC craving. It’s smoky and spicy and sweet and salty all at once. The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce (I’m still working my way through the can I opened for this) add a kick of spice, and sherry at the beginning of the cooking deepens the flavor. The soup is mostly based on this recipe from Food and Wine, and the chipotle idea I borrowed from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

I’ve been eating chipotle peppers in everything ever since I made this soup. Chipotle eggs for a weekend breakfast. Chipotle peppers in mac and cheese. Chipotle sweet potato tacos. Quesadillas with chipotle sour cream. It’s the first can I’ve ever opened. My cultural association with chipotle is the McDonald’s-owned burrito brand, famous for their mildly crowd-pleasing burritos, which, so far as I can tell, contain no real chipotle peppers. The name has been co-opted, but the real deal, original peppers are a Mexican grocery dream.

black bean soup with avocado salsa

chipotle black bean soup with sweet potatoes and avocado salsa
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type: soup
author: robin, saladfordinner.com
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 15 mins
total time: 30 mins
serves: 4
Smoky chipotle peppers add a kick to classic black bean soup.
Ingredients
  • 3 15 oz cans black beans
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers from a can
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Blend half the beans with about 1 cup water or stock until pureed. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat, and add onions, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook without browning until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and turn up the heat. Cook until sherry is reduced by half.
  3. Add the chopped chipotle, remaining stock, pureed beans, and diced sweet potato. Simmer until sweet potato is almost cooked through, but not quite about 8 minutes. Add remaining beans and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
  4. Meanwhile, make the salsa by combining avocado, lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.
  5. Serve soup topped with salsa.
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We came home several weeks ago to our landlord removing the blistered skin from 28 pounds of New Mexico hatch chiles at the picnic table behind the building. She used to live in New Mexico, and told us that green chile season was short and prized there. She, like many other New Mexico expatriates and chile fanatics, troll the internet and pester the Raley’s groceries where they are known to appear, for weeks ahead of the late August/early September arrival. The stores sell the chiles fresh, or after they have roasted them in enormous drums. In New Mexico, friends gather to roast and peel dozens and hundreds of pounds of chiles during harvest season, to freeze, preserve, and use all year. Our landlord did 28 pounds, by herself, in our backyard, no problem.

autumn sutro

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And then, she gave us about a pound of her bounty, which I dutifully froze within 24 hours, as she instructed, for future use when I was really ready.

It took me weeks to decide how to make chile verde with my chiles. There are hundreds of recipes for chile verde floating around, yet few seem definitive. Many use tomatillos for the green color, while others use peppers. None of the pepper-based ones I found struck my fancy, so I made one up. I used a combination of this Chowhound commenter’s methods with Emeril’s Food Network recipe ratios (approximately 1 part pork to 1 part chiles). The result may not have been exactly what you would get at Green Chile Kitchen, but it was fabulous enough to write down.

I added a few tomatillos for their sour flavor and acidity. You could also make this using all poblanos, or some combination of those with other chiles, like California or pasilla peppers, that you may be able to find at your local Mexican grocery. Of course, you could always email Raley’s next September to find out when they’re roasting their chiles again, or mail order some straight from the source.
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Chile Verde with New Mexico hatch chiles, pork, and potatoes

I mostly made this up, based on recommended techniques and ingredients from around the Internet. A classically trained French chef would probably do something more elegant with the flour + cornstarch thickening combination, based on one of the mother sauces, but the way I’ve described it here worked for me.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound roasted, skinned New Mexico hatch chiles or other New Mexico green chiles
  • 1 pound poblano peppers, charred and skinned
  • 2-3 tomatillos (about 1 pound), husks removed, roasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, or other fatty cut of pork
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 6 small red potatoes), cubed
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth (add an extra tsp. or two of salt if you use water)
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions

1. Trim fat from pork, and cut into cubes (3/4 in. will do). Season with salt and pepper.

2. Brown the pork: Heat oil in dutch oven, or other heavy-bottomed pot. When it shimmers, add the pork cubes and brown on at least two sides, 5-7 minutes per side. It helps to do this in batches, so that you’re only browning as much pork as can line the bottom of the pot. You don’t want to be stacking the pork in multiple layers, or it could end up gray, not brown (ick). Remove pork from the pot.

3. Turn down heat and add onions and garlic to oil (you may want or need to drain off some of the pork fat here, depending on how into extra fat you are). Saute until onions are translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add herbs and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook for two more minutes, stirring. Add flour and stir again. Finally, add the peppers and tomatillos and saute for 2 minutes more.

4. Add the water and browned pork and cover pot with lid. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes.

5. Add the cubed potatoes, and continue simmering for another 30-45 minutes, depending on your patience and level of hunger. Add cornstarch if needed for extra thickening.

6. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Taste, and add more salt if needed. By this time, the pork should be tender and pull apart easily, and the potatoes almost falling apart.

7. Serve garnished with cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, and warm corn tortillas.

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