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September 2012
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Lorrie [userpic]
Recipe: Lorrie's Bean Soup

Late last night, I was in the Safeway nearest dpaxson's house, wondering what to make for tonight's meeting. I knew it would be soup (it's Soup Weather), but I was teetering between split pea and lentil...when I saw it, peeking out at me from the shelf.

Hurst's "Cajun" Fifteen Bean Soup Mix

I was drawn to it like a moth to a candle. But..in the years since I'd last made this, I'd grown wary of mysterious "flavoring packets". Skimming the ingredients on this one reminded me of all the reasons why: artificial colors, flavors, and gods know what is hiding there under "spices (including paprika)". AND it's mostly salt anyhow; if I want salt, I have salt.

"But," I asked myself aloud as the stockboys trundled pallets about, "if we accept that the ill-favored foil packet is right out, how do we recreate this--and, moreover, how can we make it Cajunistic*"

Then, as a film clip falling from Munin's tail....feathers, did I hear dr_beowulf, cooking gumbo for his wedding guests, retelling an old saw while standing over a pot of Cajun napalm into which he was about deposit the holy trinity.

He did it, of course, in proper patois. The man who translates Old Norse in his spare time and for fun would not shirk such a slight task. I cannot replicate it; I would butcher it to try, so I shall, sadly, only render it in the common tongue:

"The Cajun boy came up to his dad and said, 'Père, where do babies come from?' And his papa got a faraway look in his eye for a long moment before replying, 'Well, first you make a roux...'."

And that was it! There was flour in the stupid packet, why, I could start the bean soup with a roux! Yes! Probably completely wrong, and yet it had a chance of being completely delicious!

But what is this French I have dropped into your beans? Let me explain:

Roux, Gentle Reader, is a mix of flour and fat that one then cooks until the flour is toasted in the hot fat to the desired color. dr_beowulf did his properly, standing, stirring over the stove, daring the flour to singe one ångström further than he wanted, and of course it did not, because, friends, that there is Proper Use of an Acculturated Folksoul.

And while my father's kin hail from the same part of Arkansas in which dr_beowulf stood, making that roux, the Ozarks are not Cajun country--and you, Gentle Readers, do not likely come from there either. You or I, trying such a thing, may well create asphalt. Well, unless you are French. I am not. The mighty streams give to me by my ancestors, quite frankly, know rather a lot about potatoes, beer, cabbage, and pickling anything that can be shoved into a jar. But not roux.

Yet, there is hope! Because, wherever a native cuisine is opaque to the prying eye, one man, one geek, will make foam rubber props to show us the way. Having no Cajun Folksoul to taint by such a heretical practice, in the recipe that follows, I will pass on the knowledge of how to make a roux that is not asphalt, not by stirring it and playing chicken (which is certainly fun, but let's leave that for Caramel Night), but by chucking it in the oven and practically forgetting about it while the beans burble in a second pot.

This recipe will vary from cook to cook, as all good ones do. I have seen essentially the same business offered with 10, 14, 15, 3, 7, 9, and I don't know how many other kinds of beans. Always more than one, which has caused me to run through several names for my offering to the genre:

N-teen Bean Soup.
d20+1 Bean Soup.
1[0-9] (how do you even pronounce that!?) Bean Soup.
Any of these with the word "Cajunistic" shoved in.

There is one other heresy in this offering: at one AM yesterday morning at the Safeway, there were no green bell peppers that I felt comfortable buying. As this is rarely in the recipes for bean soup that I saw, I chose not to buy one--thus the soup has no real trinity, perhaps causing Cajun Fail.

But at least there's a roux.

And I don't care what you call it; it's Darned Tasty.

Lorrie's Bean Soup

Yield: approximately 6 quarts (6 liters)
Time to Prepare:
  • 8 hours completely inactive (soaking beans)

  • .5-1.0 hr active prep (chopping, fussing, sweating, stirring, etc)

  • 2.0 hrs cooking


The Beans, Part One: The Soak
1lbHurst's Fifteen Bean Soup Mix, or similar (1 pkg) (454 g)
2qtcold tap water (8 c/2 L)

The Roux
4ozall-purpose wheat flour (115 g)
4ozsafflower or other high-temperature oil, e.g. peanut (115 g)

The Beans, Part Two: The Cook
1batchbean soaking water, plus enough water to come back to 2 qt/8 c/2 L
3Tvegetable broth base paste (45 mL)
3 bay leaves

The Fallen Trinity
1lgred onion, diced to approximately 1/2"/1 cm cubes (1 1/2 c/375 mL)
2-3 ribs of celery, diced to approximately 1/2"/1 cm cubes (1 1/2 c/375 mL)
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Bean Soup!
1lgcan of diced or petite diced tomatoes in juice, drained (28 oz/800 g)
1tspeach of dried thyme and oregano
1pinchred (cayenne) pepper
2pkgsof andouille sausage (I liked Aidell's, less funny stuff), sliced into coins
1 lime's worth of lime juice, strained
1bunchcilantro or flat Italian parsley, minced
  salt & freshly ground pepper to taste


The Beans, Part One: The Soak
Open the bag. CONSIGN THE FLAVOR PACKET TO PERDITION FORTHWITH. Rinse and sort the beans, then place into a 1-gallon vessel and cover with two quarts (8 cups, 2 liters) of cold tap water. Allow to soak at least six hours, but not more than twenty-four.

The Roux
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C, Gas Mark 4). Weigh out the flour and the oil and whisk to combine in your largest oven-safe Dutch oven, e.g. enameled cast iron. Bake this, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours, whisking two or three times during cooking. When cooked, the roux should be caramel-colored.

The Beans, Part Two: The Boil
Drain the beans, reserving the liquid†. Add water until you are back to two quarts, and pour into a large saucepan (or small Dutch oven, etc). Stir in vegetable base‡. Add beans and bay leaves, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boil is reached, immediately drop heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, and continue to allow the beans to simmer gently while working on the Fallen Trinity.

Fallen Trinity
Remove the roux from the oven and set it on a burner over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and sweat until onions begin to become translucent, 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Your roux will darken, perhaps turning brick-colored. This is normal. You have not burned it. Black flecks are burnt. Asphalt is burnt. Bricks are fine. Once the vegetables are cooked...

Stir in the beans along with their simmering water. While maintaining a simmer, add the tomatoes and herbs. In the pan from which you recently vacated the beans, briefly brown the sausage before adding it. Once everything is cooked and all ingredients are incorporated, add lime juice and cilantro and cook five minutes longer. Serve immediately.

--Whoever told you to discard the soak water? They were wrong. You will not explode from flatulence for keeping it. Why waste all that flavor and nutrients?</dd>
--This stuff, which is not nearly so freaky as the damnèd packet.</dd>
*--If a shamanic practice is shamanistic when you're not practising it within a shamanic culture, it's clear to me that the practice of Cajun cuisine absent its context should get similarly abused. </dd></dl>

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Lorrie's Bean Soup

Ummm.You recipe sounds so good, Lorrie, and you tell the tale so well of how you created it. I love reading your writings, though I will not be making your soup soon as I rarely cook. Sad, isn't it.

Re: Lorrie's Bean Soup

Sad, but understandable!

I write the recipes here so I remember them, I write the story so others might read it (and to feed the writing bug, I do admit). If anyone actually says, "I COOKED THIS AND IT WAS MADE OF WIN AND AWESOME!!", I practically dance naked in the street. 8-)

-- Lorrie

Re: Lorrie&#39;s Bean Soup

Lorrie, cooking might be worth it if you were to dance naked in the street. LOL

Re: Lorrie&#39;s Bean Soup


Re: Lorrie's Bean Soup

Well, if you were to promise video of the latter I might actually make it *g*. Even though beans (with the exception of Heinz Baked Beans) are things I dislike (I like chile con carne sin frijoles and think refried beans are equal to chickpeas and lentils in inedibility).

(That is a strange way of making a roux. I use butter and flour (occasionally a little milk as well) in a saucepan, stirring it until it cooks. I don't think I've ever burnt it (I've sometimes added extra flour or milk if it's too thin or thick), and it doesn't take very long. But whatever works, I'm no purist; all my recipes have a section saying "substitute anything roughly equivalent and add whatever you like"...)

Re: Lorrie's Bean Soup

*nodnod* It was longer than I wanted to spend standing and stirring, to be honest.

-- Lorrie

Re: Lorrie's Bean Soup

I made this and it would have been made of win and awesome if I had cilantro and black pepper, and didn't have to substitute the lime juice with lemon and the andouille with a combination of veggie kielbasa and veggie Italian sausage. I'm sorry to say that it was merely very, very good :)

Re: Lorrie's Bean Soup

Oh, the original back-of-bag recipe called for a lemon--I simply prefer lime!

Still, the soul of cooking (or, indeed, many crafts) is to learn enough Rules that you know when to chuck 'em and how to substitute properly, and I can see you've done so here. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

-- Lorrie

That sounds like quite a tasty recipe!

However, I must say that as much as I adore Alton Brown, an hour and a half is a LONG time to spend making a roux! The gumbo-pot stirring method, while briefly labor-intensive, is, well, brief.

The trick is to keep stirring the stuff the whole time and not look away even for a moment. Sort of fun if you're in the right mood.

Talking about cajun food is making me very hungry and now I want to make etouffee.

I do appreciate the idea of playing chicken with the food, but I didn't have time for it yesterday, alas. The times I've made a roux myself, it was an awfully long time stirring--time I could have spent doing anything else. The oven-based roux is exactly the kind of laziness I could get behind, and besides, the beans are also cooking for that same hour and a half.

MMmmmmmmm, etoufée...

-- Lorrie

Yeah, I can see the appeal of doing the beans and roux concurrently.

I think this would also make a far larger quantity of roux than I'm accustomed to making - I generally only use a tablespoon or two each of butter and flour, which cooks pretty darn fast. You do really have to watch it with the butter because it has such a low smoking point...

Yeah, I can see the appeal of doing the beans and roux concurrently.

Not only that, but both were low-maintenance tasks so I could do dishes or e-mail or any other interruptible task. The only way it would have been less fuss would have been to chuck it all in a slow cooker--doable, but it would have obliviated the "how does roux taste in bean soup?" part of the experiment.

I think this would also make a far larger quantity of roux than I'm accustomed to making - I generally only use a tablespoon or two each of butter and flour, which cooks pretty darn fast. You do really have to watch it with the butter because it has such a low smoking point...

Well, I used the quantities and method from Alton's shrimp gumbo recipe, which probably is overdoing it, but there we were. I didn't know what the timing might be on some smaller quantity.

Clarified butter would have a higher smoke point than just plain butter, but if you'll note in the recipe, I dodged the grease fire bullet completely by swapping in a temperature-tolerant safflower oil for the butter--which is apparently standard when you're aiming for the darker shades of roux, as I found out while researching roux.

-- Lorrie

So, how much soup does this make and how much time do you spend actively working on it?


Lessee...one pint for each of six people is three quarts, and I had roughly a quart and a half leftover. Call it six quarts.


Well, the beans soak eight hours and boil for another twoish, then there's the chopping that you do, but that can happen while the roux and the beans are doodling along--depending on how fast your knifework is, that can be anywhere from a half an hour to an hour.

I put all this in the recipe just now--thanks!

-- Lorrie

No problem. arcturus and I were making up our dinner schedule and shopping list, and thanks to you prompt reply we saw that we could shave a bit off of the overfull list. I'll attempt to make it on Saturday.

I am neither a cook nor a foodie :-)

But I find myself not only translating Old Norse at work for voluspa.org but translating Icelandic for Wikipedia. And researching in Norwegian because the relevant ancient tomes on GoogleBooks cannot be seen in Norway. Either this stuff will keep my brain alive or it will kill it. But somebody has to do it.


Yes, and I find myself frequently singing your praises for it. *grin*

-- Lorrie