Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Black Bean and Calabrese Sausage Soup

The Calabrese or Salsiccia Calabrese is a pork sausage made traditionally in the region of Calabria, Italy. It is most similar to what most Americans know as the spicy Italian sausage. Calabrese is made with fennel seed, dried ground hot peppers like the cayanne, and a sweet paprika sometimes called pepe rosso which gives the sausage its deep red color. If you have never had a Calabrese and live in the Bay Area may I recommend: Top Dog. This spicy sausage is entirely underrated.

If there is one culinary custom I inherited from my mother it's soups. Growing up my mom would make a pot of soup nearly every week in the evening and we probably ate that soup for 4 meals that week. For a while I might have said I was fed up with soup. But soups are so essential to my culinary roots I could never get by without them. And, lets face it, as much as I love to cook I can't cook every day. I make a pot of soup on Monday and I'll have lunch and dinner for two or three more days.

This soup is my own recipe and I will admit it is a culture clash, but please don't call it fusion-food. The Calabrese is there as a flavor component and not the bulk of the soup. I think you'll find the bright heat from the New Mexico chili powder and the manzano pepper along with the moderately smokey flavor from the bacon and roasted pepper topped off with garlicky bitter greens a perfect combination. This soup will warm your insides as the winter continues to blow in. I promise you will love it.

(recipe follows)
Black Bean and Calabrese Sausage Soup
  • 1 cup dry black beans
  • 6 cups water for soaking the beans
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces bacon, diced
  • 3/4 pound Calabrese or hot Italian sausage in casings
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted and diced
  • 1 medium white onion, ½ inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/2 - 1 manzano pepper, or 2 serrano peppers, or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and vanes removed, diced
  • 4 thin carrots, chopped to ½ inch rounds
  • 3 stalks celery, ½ inch chop
  • 2 teaspoons dry mexican oregano, divided in half
  • 3 tablespoons New Mexico chili powder, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided in half
  • 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, ½ inch dice
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot with 6 cups of water. Soak beans 8 - 10 hours. Do this the morning before you make the soup. Discard the soaking liquid and rinse the beans.

Heat a 5 - 8 quart pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and bacon to the pot. Render some of the fat from the bacon and place the sausage in the pot to brown. Brown the sausage on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. If the bacon starts to burn before the sausage is finished browning remove the bacon and continue browning the sausage. When the sausage is browned remove the bacon and sausage and set aside, but leave the rendered fat in the pot.
Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, manzano pepper, half the chili powder, half the cumin, and half the oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions become translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside.
Add the beans and chicken stock and the remaining chili powder, cumin, and thyme. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the bacon to the beans and simmer until the beans are almost cooked, about 40 - 50 minutes. Meanwhile slice the sausage into ½ inch rounds. When the beans are almost cooked add the sausage, sauteed vegetables, potatoes, and roasted peppers. Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are done, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Serve the soup in bowls topped with the braised chard.

Serves 4 - 6

Notes: Just try this soup. If you want to make it low fat you could use spicy chicken or turkey sausage. It would really be best to try and find Calabrese if you can. I think the manzano pepper is the perfect pepper for soups. They have a lot of heat, but still have a nice flavor. You can always cut down on the amount if your peppers are particularly hot or you are sensitive to spicy foods.

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