I love black bean soup. And I love a thick stew. I got to thinking about bean and pea soups, and how much I love them, but that one of my friends never has even tried them because she doesn't eat pork...and almost all bean and pea soups are built around ham of some sort.
So how could I get the same rich flavor, I wondered, without using pork? Vegetarian black bean soup is really flat and dull (to my taste), and since beans aren't normally roasted, the same depth of flavor can't be built. I perused the meats in my local market, finally deciding, with a sigh, that I wasn't going to find a good replacement--at least not at the price I wanted to pay. So over I marched to the ham hocks.
And there, right next to them, was something I'd never noticed before: smoked turkey parts. Wings or drumsticks, vacuum-packed in pairs, with the drums about $6 for two. Was this the solution I was looking for? I rushed home to try it out. And here is the glorious result.
Black Bean Stew
1 pound black beans (usually one bag), picked over, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 smoked turkey drumsticks
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
water to cover--if you have chlorinated water go ahead an buy a big 2.5 gallon bottle of spring water for best flavor
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or juice of one lime
Serving garnish: Sour cream, minced scallion, chopped cilantro, diced avocado, and/or a little shredded cheese.Place beans, turkey drumsticks, bay leaves, oregano and baking soda in large pot, add water to cover (about 6 cups) with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; skim scum as it rises to surface. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until beans are tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if necessary, add another 1 cup water and continue to simmer until beans are tender); do not drain beans. Discard bay leaves. Remove turkey, cut into shreds or cubes, and set aside.
Now, heat oil in a soup or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, bean cooking liquid, and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Blend until half blended with an immersion or traditional blender. If necessary, thicken with water/cornstarch. Add lime juice or vinegar to brighten the flavor, and then add the turkey meat and black pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.