Heirloom Beans by Chronicle Books, Steve Sando, Vanessa Barrington & Rancho Gordo
In the beautiful little town of Patzcuaro, Mexico, one of the local specialties is Tarascan soup, most likely named for the local indigenouos people. There are a several variations but in general, the best version is a mixture of tomatoes, chicken stock and puréed beans. One day I made the soup with a cranberry bean rather than the more traditional Bayo and was just knocked out. Cranberry beans in general are rich and velvety and the texture of the puréed soup, topped with crunchy fried tortilla strips and chiles was addictive. The problem is, I later had the soup in Patzcuaro, made with a proper Bayo bean and I much preferred my own version with a cranberry bean!
1 pound plum tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked cranberry beans (or Borlotti, Cargamanto or October beans), in broth
3 to 4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Safflower or grapeseed oil for frying
2 day-old corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
2 ancho chiles, seeded and cut into narrow strips
½ cup queso fresco or other mild, wet white cheese
Sour cream for serving
Fresh cilantro leaves for serving
- Line a heavy skillet or comal with aluminum foil. Set over medium-high heat. Put the tomatoes cut side down in the pan and roast, turning occasionally, until blackened and soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and chop. Set aside.
- Remove the foil from the skillet.In the skillet, over medium-high heat , warm the olive oil. Add onions, garlic, and tomatoes and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Put the vegetables in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a heavy bottom soup pot.
- Purée the beans and their broth in the blender, adding some of the chicken broth if necessary to keep the blades moving. Add them to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the broth and oregano and season with salt. Cook for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
- Meanwhile, pour the safflower oil to a depth of about ½ inch, into a small, heavy skillet. Set over medium-high heat and heat the oil until it is shimmering. Fry the tortilla strips until crisp and medium brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Fry the ancho chile strips until they puff up and emit a spicy aroma, 2 to 3 seconds. Remove quickly as they can become bitter if overcooked.
- Put a little cheese, a few chile strips, and some tortilla strips in each warmed bowl. Pour in the hot soup. Pass the sour cream and cilantro at the table for garnishing the soup.
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