I love my pressure cooker. Except…there's no evaporation. Once you lock that lid, all the liquid is trapped. I'm used to a thick broth when I cook dried beans, and it's tricky to get the amount of water right in the pressure cooker.
I love noodle soup. Except…dry pasta soaks up too much liquid. I add eight ounces of pasta to a soup, and pretty soon I have noodle stew, not a soup.
I should have put two and two together, but I'm a slow learner. I made pressure cooker pasta fazool - bean soup with dried pasta - and suddenly my problems were over. I had a thick bean and pasta soup. Perfect!
I'm taking this idea south of the border. I combined a Mexican black bean soup with fideos, Mexico's vermicelli noodle soup. The result is a thick black bean and pasta soup. It's not Authentic Mexican, but it sure tastes good.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Mexican Black Bean and Noodle Soup (Frijoles y Fideos)
Cooking time: 60 minutes
- Pressure cooker (I used my Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker)
- 1 pound black beans, sorted and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8.8 ounce package vermicelli nests (aka bird's nest pasta)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (or a chili powder blend)
- 1 chipotle chile en adobo (or 1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo puree)
- 8 cups water
- Stems from ½ bunch of cilantro (leaves saved for accompaniments)
- 1 (15 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 whole head of garlic, roots trimmed off (they hide dirt)
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- Juice of 1 lime
- Shredded mexican cheese
- Minced fresh cilantro
- Hot Sauce
- Lime wedges
- Shredded cabbage
1. Brown the vermicelli and bloom the spices:
Heat the vegetable oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the vermicelli nests in a single layer; cook in batches if you need to. Brown the nests on one side, about 1 minute. Carefully flip the nests and brown on the other side, about another minute. Remove the nests to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil behind as possible. After all the nests are browned, add the cumin, chile powder, and chipotle to the hot oil. Cook the spices until they are sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Pressure cook the beans:
Add the black beans and water to the pressure cooker, then stir to mix in the spices. Tie the cilantro stems into a bundle, then add the bundle of cilantro, garlic head, and can of diced tomatoes to the top of the liquid on the cooker. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, increase the heat to high, and bring the cooker up to high pressure. (RTFPCM - read the fine pressure cooker manual - for the high pressure signal of your cooker). Reduce the heat to maintain the pressure and cook at high pressure for 25 minutes (35 minutes in an electric pressure cooker). Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally, about another 15 minutes. Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you - even when it's not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot.
*Optionally, cook under pressure for 30 minutes, then quick release the pressure.
3. Cook the pasta:
Fish out the cilantro bundle and the head of garlic, and discard, then stir the tomatoes into the beans. Turn the heat to high under the cooker and bring the pot back to a simmer. Stir in the 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and the browned pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 9 minutes. (Note - do not lock the lid again - we aren't cooking the pasta under pressure.) Stir in the lime juice, taste, and add more salt, pepper, and lime juice as needed.
Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle the accompaniments on top, and serve.
- Why vermicelli nests? Because they're the right size to fit in the bottom of my pressure cooker pot for browning, and the nest makes it easy to flip and brown the other side. I didn't like the idea of chasing individual noodles around the bottom of the pan. Of course, it would be more authentic if I took 8 ounces of vermicelli noodles and broke them into rough 2 inch lengths before browning. (Cheaper too.) But I took the easy way out.
- Loose noodles in the bottom of the bag? Don't bother browning them - just brown the nests, then dump the loose noodles into the pot with the browned nests.
- I didn't soak the beans for this recipe, because Rick Bayless says... OK, you got me, it's because I forgot to soak them. But that's OK - they came out fine. If you want to, brine the beans in 3 quarts of water plus ¼ cup of table salt for at least 8 hours, then drain and rinse before cooking. Cut the cooking time for soaked beans to 15 minutes under high pressure (20 minutes in an electric PC), with a natural pressure release. (Thanks to Tami for asking about this in the comments.)
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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