My mom gave me a jar of dried mulato chiles a couple of months ago; I’ve been thinking about what to do with them ever since, and this week decided to try them in a black bean soup. Mulato chiles are a variety of dried poblano, reddish black in color with a chocolatey, smoky flavor and a touch of heat; they’re commonly used in mole sauces. Since mulatos aren’t too spicy, I upped the soup’s heat quotient by adding two fresh, chopped jalapenos (seeds and ribs included). I remembered a few slices of bacon in the freezer and decided to include them, too, but if you’d rather leave the bacon out just saute the vegetables in olive oil and double the amount of smoked paprika later on. This is one of the best black bean soups I’ve ever tasted — the mulato adds richness and depth of flavor, the jalapenos provide a hit of fresh, clean heat, and cumin, smoked paprika, lime juice, and fresh cilantro round out the flavors and tie everything together. One day for lunch I garnished my bowl with cooling chopped avocado and hard-cooked egg; another day with chopped baked tofu. Delicious both ways.
black bean soup with mulato chile
1 cup dried black beans, soaked for 8 hours, rinsed and drained
4 slices of bacon, thinly sliced OR 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (use 1/2 tsp if not including the bacon)
1 dried mulato chile
roughly 1-by-1-inch piece of dried kombu
2 medium potatoes, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
diced hard-cooked egg, avocado, baked tofu, and/or crispy bacon (for garnish)
If using the bacon, saute it in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until crispy and browned. Drain off all of the fat except about 2 Tbsp (reserve some of the crisped bacon if you’d like to garnish the soup with it later). (If not using bacon, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil before proceeding to the next step.)
Add the onion, carrot, celery, and jalapeno to the pot, and saute for 5 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are lightly browned. Add the garlic, cumin, and smoked paprika, and saute for another couple of minutes until the cumin seeds are fragrant.
Add the soaked and drained beans, mulato chile, and kombu. Pour in 5 cups of water, add a big pinch of sea salt, and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer the soup until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours. As it cooks, break up the dried chile into smaller pieces with a spoon (and remove the stem once it detaches from the pepper). When the beans are tender, add the potatoes and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Season the soup to taste with freshly squeezed lime juice and salt. Garnish each bowl with cilantro and accoutrements of your choice: diced avocado, crisped bacon, hard-boiled egg, and baked tofu are all fine additions.
The soup is even better the next day.
Updated 2/1/2011 to include green bell pepper, which was omitted in the original version of the recipe.