Corn and Red Bean Soup

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This recipe is inspired by a Choctaw recipe I found. It didn’t include bacon, but since it would have been available to the local population through trade with Europeans, I used it to impart some extra flavor and richness. It also didn’t include filé powder, but since the Choctaw taught their New Orleans neighbors how to use it, I figured I could throw it in and still stay faithful to the challenge.

4 slices bacon
3 fresh corn cobs
2 cups cooked red beans, (dried or canned)
4 cups water
½ teaspoon gumbo filé powder
sea salt, to taste

1. Husk the corn cobs, and cut the kernels from the cobs with a knife. Using a butter knife, scrape the empty cobs to remove the pulp and milk, collecting it in a bowl. Add the kernels to the bowl and set aside.
2. Chop the bacon slices into small pieces. Render the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until very crispy, stirring frequently. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered fat behind.
3. Add the corn kernel-pulp-milk mixture to the pot, stirring to coat the kernels with bacon fat. Sauté over medium heat until the corn kernels are plump, bright yellow, and lightly browned, stirring frequently to prevent over-browning.
4. Add water to the pot, bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer the corn mixture until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally, and taste. When the broth is full of sweet corn and smoky bacon flavors, you’re ready to add the beans.
5. Add the beans to the pot, and simmer to warm and soften them. Using a potato masher, partially mash the beans and corn, to further thicken the soup. You’re not looking for a pureé, you should be able to see lots of beans and corn when you’re done. Stir in the bacon pieces, and simmer a few more minutes.
6. Turn off the heat, and stir in the filé powder. Do not cook the filé powder; it won’t thicken the soup properly, and will develop a stringy texture.
Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and salt to taste with sea salt.

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