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Sopa de Frijoles

(Nicaraguan Red Bean Soup)

This traditional soup of Nicaraguans--who prefer red beans to black--is both unusual and delightful. the red bean puree is light and smooth, contrasting with the crisp onion, chunky red pepper, and bursts of intense pork from the chicharrones (pork rinds). The poached egg on top enriches the soup and looks glorious--a yellow sun on a clay earth terrain. Serve hot as a meal to 4 people.

Garnish: 4 eggs

Discard the soaking water and put the beans and garlic into a Dutch oven with the 8 cups of water. (You don't want a narrow pot, because you're going to poach 4 eggs in it at the end.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soft, about an hour. Purée and return to the pot.

Sauté the onions in the corn oil over medium heat until lightly crisp. Add the pork rinds, red pepper, and black pepper, and stir for a few minutes. Scrape everything into the soup pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Season with salt.

When ready to serve, raise the heat to medium. Carefully break the 4 eggs into different spots of the pot, cover, and let poach for several minutes. Carefully ladle into bowls and serve immediately.