Meat Free Mondays – Black Bean and Roasted Corn Chowder

Of roux, Gravy Master and bread bowls.

You and I need to have a serious talk. About roux.

Roux is a thickening agent made out of any kind of fat and any kind of flour. The two are whisked together to make a thick paste and cooked until the flour taste is gone. When roux is added to a soup or sauce, the flour and fat granules abosrb the liquid, resulting in a thicker, denser product.

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Chowder

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Chowder in a Bread Bowl

You can make a slack roux and tight roux (ie soupy or stiff), blonde roux and brown roux (ie light or dark), depending on what you are making with it. The proper proportion of roux is 2 parts fat to 3 parts flour.

For today’s recipe, I made a tight, dark roux out of vegetable shortening and all-purpose flour. It cooked it until it was just short of burning because I wanted it very dark.

I wanted the chowder to have the caramel color and denisty of a good gumbo, even though it obviously is not a gumbo because it lacks any kind of meat protein, file (pronounced FEE-lay, a thickening agent made out of ground young sassafrass leaves), or okra. I got pretty close, but I still had to add a few drops of Gravy Master, a magical meat-free chef’s secret liquid used to darken soups and sauces.

Bread bowls are a great way to increase the “wow factor” for when you make soups and stews. They are surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make. I made a simple rye bread dough and formed it into small round loaves. After the bread was cooked and cooled, I hollowed out the loaves and brushed the interior with EVOO and returned them to a 350F oven for 15 minutes. The oil forms a kind of seal that keeps the soup from oozing out when you fill it.

For this recipe, I used the last of the Farmers Market corn, which I soaked in water for about 30 minutes then grilled in the husk for about 20 more minutes, then cut from the cob when it cooled. This gives the corn a nice smoky flavor. But you could use canned corn kernels.

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Chowder

30 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked corn kernels

2 TBS EVOO

1/2 white onion

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

2 serrano peppers, ribs and seeds removed, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 TBS cumin

1 TBS chili powder

4 cups vegetable stock

2/3 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup all purpose flour

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 TBS fresh thyme (or 1 TBS dried)

Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

A few drops of gravy master (ssshh, that part’s a secret!)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves (for garnish)

Fat-free sour cream (for garnish)

Tortilla chips (for garnish)

To build the roux, heat the vegetable shortening (or butter) in a sauce pan just until melted. Whisk in the flour until it forms a tight paste, then continue whisking until it turns a dark, chocolatey brown. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

In separate pot, heat vegetable stock. When boiling, quickly whisk in the roux and continue whisking until liquid tightens significantly, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put a soup pot on the fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, stir in onions, carrots, celery and all the peppers and cook until onions translucent, about 10 minutes. Add beans, corn, garlic, cumin and chili powder and stir together. Add thickened vegetable stock, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the lime juice and thyme and adjust color with Gravy Master, if necessary. Season with S&P to taste.

To serve, ladle into bread bowl, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, top with dollop of sour cream and a single tortilla chip.

What are some of your favorite meat free recipes? Why not share them in the comments section below? And thanks for looking at my blog!

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3 thoughts on “Meat Free Mondays – Black Bean and Roasted Corn Chowder

  1. Perhaps it’s heresy, but I frequently go with some corn starch dissolved in cold water for my thickening agent.
    As long as the sauce is built properly, I haven’t noticed anything bad about the taste of this shortcut compared to using a roux

    • I was going for a gumbo-type thing here with a very dark density. I admit it wasn’t entirely successful, hence the gravy master. I was thinking about Jimmy Bannos’s gumbo at Heaven on Seven in Chicago. Maybe I should try to do a stage there.

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