Ham and Bean Soup

February 7, 2012 | By andrea | Filed in: Comfort Food, Main Dish, Recipes, Soup/Stew.

Although it hasn’t been as rainy here in Portland as it normally is in the winter, it’s definitely still soup weather. I made this delicious ham and bean soup today and took it to a lunch gathering. I’m happy to say that there was hardly enough leftover for a photo. The recipe (from the fine folks at Cook’s Illustrated) was inspired by the famous soup that has been served at the U.S. Senate’s restaurant since the early 1900’s.

I used small white beans because the store I was at didn’t have dried navy beans (who knows, they might even be the same thing). I did the quick salt-soaking method for the beans and rinsed them well before adding them to the soup. When the soup was finished cooking, I mashed some beans with a potato masher to thicken the soup. I have to say, I’m already looking forward to making it again! 

U.S. Senate Navy Bean Soup
-recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Soups & Stews (2012)

This soup can easily turn overly salty because of the ham; be sure to use low-sodium broth and taste the soup carefully before seasoning with any salt. Serves 8.

 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ham steak, patted dry and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 cups water
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound dried navy beans (2-1/2 cups), picked over, rinsed, salt-soaked, and rinsed again (see below)
1 smoked ham hock, rinsed
2 bay leaves 
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Brown ham on all sides, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion and celery and cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in garlic, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in water, broth, soaked beans, ham hock and bay leaves and bring to boil. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender, 45 to 60 minutes. 

Stir in carrots and 1 teaspoon vinegar and continue to cook, covered in oven until beans and vegetables are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

Remove pot from oven and remove bay leaves. Transfer ham hock to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred meat discarding bone and skin.

Return ham hock meat to soup and heat over medium heat until soup is hot, about 2 minutes. Off heat, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken soup. Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste, and serve. 

Overnight Salt-Soaking Method: Dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 16 cups of cold water in a large container or pot. Stir in 1 pound of beans and soak them at room temperature for at least eight hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly before proceeding with the recipe.

Quick Salt-Soaking Method: Combine 16 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of salt, and 1 pound of beans in a large Dutch oven and bring them to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly before proceeding with the recipe.

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