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Napa Valley Grille's Napa Black Bean Soup

2 C. dried black beans
6 C. cold water
3 T. canola or other vegetable oil
4 oz. slab bacon, rind discarded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large carrot, peeled & cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
8 C. chicken stock, canned low-sodium broth, or water (or more as needed)
4 bay leaves
coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 t. Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
1 T. lime juice
1 t. wine vinegar, preferably sherry vinegar, but white wine or red wine will do
For garnish: sour cream, diced onion, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped hard-cooked egg

Pick over the beans, discarding any stones or debris. Place beans in a colander or strainer and rinse well under cold water. Drain. Place beans in a large stockpot or bowl, add water (it should cover the beans by two inches) and soak for eight hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Heat oil in a very large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add bacon and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned—about 15 minutes.

Add onion, carrot ,and garlic to the pot and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Drain beans; add them to pot along with 8 cups stock and bay leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender and vegetables have practically dissolved, about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure beans aren't sticking to bottom of pot. If soup becomes too thick, add additional stock or water. Most beans should keep their shape, but some will fall apart enough to thicken the soup.
Remove pot from the heat and season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, lime juice, and vinegar. Remove bay leaves.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with any combination of sour cream, diced onion, fresh cilantro leaves, and chopped, hard-cooked egg.

Serves 6 as a main course.

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