1 1/2 cups dried black beans (10 oz), picked over and rinsed
8 bacon slices (7 oz), chopped (1 cup)
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped seeded fresh jalape&241;o chile
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
3 qt reduced-sodium chicken broth (96 fl oz)
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Cover beans with cold water by 3 inches in a bowl and soak at room temperature
at least 8 hours, or quick-soak (see cooks' note, below). Drain well in a
Cook bacon in a 5- to 6-quart heavy
pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5
minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and pour off all
but 1 tablespoon fat from pot. Reserve 2 tablespoons chopped bacon for topping,
then return remaining bacon to pot and heat over moderately high heat until hot
but not smoking. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chile, oregano, bay leaf, and
thyme and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add beans, chicken broth, and white
pepper and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until beans are
very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaf and stir in cilantro.
Serve soup topped with sour cream,
chopped cilantro, and reserved bacon.
• To quick-soak beans, cover dried
beans with 3 inches of cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook,
uncovered, over moderate heat 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover pan, then
soak beans, covered, 1 hour.
• Soup can be made 3 days ahead and
cooled completely, then chilled, covered. Thin with water if desired when
Makes 6 to 8 servings.