Dennis Quaintance (L32 founder and all-around guru) likes to say that everybody’s got a different recipe for stew, but they all have one thing in common: time.
Then someone said, “I love thyme, dude! That’s very French.”
And he said, “Not that thyme. Time!”
What’s really going on is that we have a tremendous affinity for one-pot wonders, we love the idea of cooking as alchemy. We’re intrigued by the idea of taking a bunch of things, which may be humble, or mean, whatever synonym you like to use, and putting them in a pot and cooking them all together and something magical happens after a period of time.
At the restaurant, it’s a different story. People expect consistency. But at home, we may not follow a stew or chili recipe (or any recipe at all, unless it involves baking). We may decide to wing it. Cook it long enough — with enough time or thyme — and it’s going to taste right.
The difference between a stew, soup, and chili
- Think of stew as a verb, not a noun. It’s a cooking process where the meat is braised and falling apart.
- Generally, it’s a main dish.
- Meat plays the starring role.
- Broth is usually thickened with flour, but sometimes with disintegrated vegetables (like Brunswick stew).
- Longer cook time to tenderize the meat.
- When you make a soup, you can have multiple starring roles for the ingredients.
- Generally served as an appetizer.
- The focal point is about achieving a balance between the components; multiple starring roles.
- Thinner broth.
- Shorter cook time.
- Traditional chili is meat that is braised, slow cooked, or stewed in a chile-spiked sauce.
- The core ingredients: chiles, meat, and broth, cooked down. Traditional chili doesn’t have beans.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Piedmont
Somehow, by the time Texas chili made its way to the Piedmont, it crossed with the butter beans and lima beans in Brunswick Stew.
In the Piedmont, we don’t have a tradition of spicy things. Texas Pete is more of a modern innovation. So our chili and black bean soups are kind of sisters in that we add beans to our chili to bring it into the southern realm of one-pot-wonders. We use kidney beans, ground beef, filet mignon tips, tomatoes, and chiles.
A tradition of Black Bean Soup
Black beans don’t have much of a tradition in the Piedmont. Pinto beans are the generic beans of the Carolinas. October beans, (AKA Cranberry beans) are the primary staple at higher elevations, where pintos aren’t as prolific.
We at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen have developed a tradition of Black Bean Cakes and Black Bean Soup. We started serving the Black Bean Cakes here when the restaurant opened 23 years ago, and that’s a main reason we make a Black Bean Soup instead of a kidney bean soup, or a vegetarian chili; it’s another way to showcase the black bean.
Once upon a time, we made black bean soup every day. People still call and want to know when we’re going to do black bean soup again. What menu is it on? They buy quarts to take home.
We like to offer it on the winter menu at the same time as chili because to me it touches the same senses. You can make it at home, too. All you need is some time.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup red onions – finely chopped
- 2 cans black beans – drained
- ½ can tomatoes – chopped
- 2 ½ cup vegetable stock
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- fresh parsley – chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
Drain excess liquid from beans and rinse. Let drain while cooking onions. Sauté onions in oil in soup pot till transparent but not brown. Add remaining ingredients and beans to pot. Heat to boil then reduce and simmer for 1 hour.
Posted December 2012