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Bean & Bacon Stew

When I was younger, I used to love Campbell's Bean with Bacon soup. That is until I found out how much MSG is in that little can. Although I've taken steps to remove chemically synthesized glutemate from my diet, I still can't help but want a bowl of bacon-y flavored beans to give me energy for a long day. The recipe seems complicated but it really is very easy. I've broken it down into parts for the purpose of time constraints, so that when you want to do the recipe the parts of the soup are already prepared and all you have to do is make the roux. You can also make a big batch of stew and portion it out, freezing it for later use. Either way you have it, I hope you enjoy this traditional favorite minus MSG preservatives.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans, sorted and washed
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 – 3 oz. salt pork
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 qt. vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup masa harina, or flour
  • Salt to taste

Prep Work:

To prepare your beans, place them in a pot with three times the volume of water and heat them over medium to medium high heat until they start to boil. Remove them from the heat and allow soaking for 1 to 2 hours. Drain the beans and use right away, or place in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 4 days. Throw away the soaking water.

To prepare your bacon, spread the slices out onto a cast iron skillet or frying pan in one layer. If necessary, do these steps in 2 or 3 batches. Place the skillet or pan into a 350°F oven. Turn over after 15 to 20 minutes and allow rendering until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on a plate with paper towels to cool down and dry out. Continue to cook the bacon until all of it is done and then drain the skillet, reserving at least two tablespoons of the fat. Once the bacon is cool, either use a food processor or a chef’s knife to chop the bacon into uniformed pieces. Either use right away or place in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week. Use the unclean skillet in the next step.

To prepare the onions, place the skillet on medium heat and add your onions to the pan. Stir the onions around until they become translucent and some of the fond has come off the pan. Now add your white wine and scrape the fond off the pan while the liquor boils away. Store both onions and liquid together in a air tight container for up to 4 days.

Cook The Soup:

To a large soup pot, add the beans and onions along with your salt pork, bay leaves, black pepper, and marjoram. Add just enough vegetable stock to submerge the beans. Heat the pot until the liquid starts to boil, then bring down your heat to low, cover with a lid, and let simmer for 60 to 90 minutes. Keep checking on the liquid level, adding more liquid when it goes lower than the beans.

You’ll need to pots for this next step, both of equal size would work well. Strain the liquid of your soup through a mesh sieve into one pot; removing the salt pork and placing the ingredients back into your soup pot off the heat. Set the liquid on a low heat, keeping it hot but not boiling. Set the other pot on medium heat and melt the reserved bacon fat. Add the masa harina, or flour, until the roux looks to have the consistency of wet sand. Let this roux cook for a good 3 to 5 minutes, vigorously stirring it around so that the flour does not burn. Once you see the color deepen then you are ready for the next step.

Using a ladle, add about ¼ of a cup of your hot liquid to the roux, stirring it around until no moisture seems to be left. Repeat this step until the liquid no longer steams up when introduced, and then start adding about ½ of a cup of your hot liquid while stirring. As your roux continues to look thinner, you may add more liquid at a time until you can just pour the rest of the liquid into the pot without creating lumps.

(Note: If you find you have unsightly lumps of masa in your roux that is because you either introduced too much liquid at a time and/or you didn’t stir it enough between introductions of liquid. In order to remedy this situation, once you have added all the liquid from the first pot, strain the mixture through a mesh sieve to remove the lumps.)

Pour the liquid back into the original soup pot, over the rest of the ingredients, and add the bacon. Bring the soup back up to a slight simmer. Now taste test to adjust the saltiness and any other seasoning. If you feel the stew is too dry then add a little vegetable stock until at the preferred consistency. Serve with some sour cream, minced parsley, and crusty bread.

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August 2012
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