Preparing for the Thundering Herds

I don’t know what happens at your house during Thanksgiving, but we are over-run. We always manage to have at least one, if not two, houses brimming with guests. The strange thing is, this happens without our even realizing it. The phone calls sort of dribble in: “Can we come?” “Are you around?” Oh, and we invite people too. And, somehow before we know it, we have 15 for the weekend and 26 for Turkey Day! Thank heavens for our neighbors and dear friends, Pop and Pete. They go away and let us use their house. The weekend is, as you can imagine, a blast; and, as a result, Thanksgiving is beloved in this house.

So with 15 or 16 of my most treasured buds here for the weekend, there is one thing I absolutely do not want to do: slave away in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I love good food and I’m not prepared to settle on quality. So what’s a girl to do? Cook early and often and use the freezer!

So, yesterday I began “The Big Cook,” as I call it. I am not focused on Turkey Day yet- no, that all happens the week of Thanksgiving. I am thinking about Thanksgiving week as a whole: dinner Tuesday as our guests dribble in, and lunch Wednesday, and dinner again Wednesday, lunch Thursday and then again on Friday…you get the idea. I am looking for food that is versatile for a range of meals but also freezes well. And, that’s why Black Bean Soup is such a perfect thing to have tucked away when the crowds descend. With a well stocked freezer, it’s easy to say, “Bring ‘em on” and mean it!

Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Sarah Leah Chase, Cold Weather Cooking
Makes 4 quarts

16 oz. sliced bacon, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 carrots, peeled and minced
4 ribs celery, minced
3 jalapeno, seeded and minced
¼ c cumin
¼ c oregano
1 lbs black turtle beans, soaked over night in water
3½ to 4 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
½ c fresh lime juice
½ c cream sherry
Sea Salt and pepper
1 c minced cilantro
Sour Cream for garnish

1. Cook the bacon in a large stockpot over medium heat until it begins to crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.
2. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery to the bacon fat in the pot. (I usually pour some of the fat off first.) Sauté, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in the cumin and oregano.
3. Rinse and drain the black beans and add to the stockpot. Cover with 3½ quarts of chicken broth. Simmer uncovered until the beans are very tender and beginning to fall apart, about 2 hours. Thin with additional broth if the mixture seems to be getting too thick.
4. Stir in the lime juice, sherry and reserved bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (May be frozen here) Just before serving swirl in cilantro. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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