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Bean and Ham Soup

  • April 15, 2009

Had your fill of ham and cheese sandwiches or omelets from all that leftover Easter ham?

Still have that hambone left? Well then make some soup.

This ham and bean soup made a soul-warming, satisfying and economical dinner during yesterday’s dreary, drizzly weather here in Central New Jersey, with plenty left for the freezer. It looks like today’s weather is no better, so this soup will still be season-appropriate.

A lot of recipes tell you to soak the beans overnight, but I find they’re still rock hard the next day. Just save yourself the trouble and start out with the dried beans and boil them per the instructions below. They’ll soften during the cooking. Just don’t add salt until the end.

Bean and Ham soup

I leave a fair amount of meat on the hambone when I’m trimming the ham, knowing I’m going to be using it for soup. I also add little bits of leftover ham, maybe 1/2 cup to 1 cup or so. Hopefully, you’ve been saving the rinds of Parmesan cheese when you get near the end of a piece. They add great flavor to a soup. Pull one out of the freezer and drop it in the pot with the other ingredients.

1 pound dried small white beans
2 T. olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 ham bone, plus extra bits of ham, if desired
10 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste
1 rind of Parmesan cheese (optional)

Put the beans in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes on high heat to get rid of any scum. Drain.

In another pot, saute onions, celery, garlic and carrots until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the beans, but don’t add the salt. DON’T add salt to a pot of dried beans or it will take forever to them to soften. Cook over low to medium heat for at least two hours. Remove the rind, the bay leaf and add salt.

Remove the bone and any meat that hasn’t already flaked off. Put the meat back in the soup. You can eat the soup as is, or blend part of it with a stick blender to get a creamier texture.

Onion Soup all’Italiana

  • March 26, 2009

First of all, let me say I wouldn’t be making this soup if Spring were REALLY here. But it’s still cold and rainy here in Central New Jersey, despite the crocuses peeping up through the earth. You know how they say “If you carry an umbrella, it won’t really rain?” Well, maybe if I make this wintry-weather soup, spring will really arrive.

This soup recipe is from one of my favorite cooks – Julia Child. My dog-eared and tattered copies of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” are decades old. I learned long ago that her recipes, while typically very long and detailed, are fail-proof. But still, I alter her recipe slightly, using chicken stock instead of beef, and fontina cheese instead of the usual Swiss or gruyere.

Onion Soup all’Italiana

1 1/2 pounds, or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions (the food processor is great here)
3 Tb butter
1 Tb oil

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)

3 Tb flour

2 quarts boiling chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt, pepper to taste
3 Tb. cognac

rounds of toasted French or Italian bread
1 to 2 cups grated Fontina cheese

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for three minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Toast the bread rounds lightly in a toaster or broiler. Place soup in individual, oven-proof bowls and top with the bread and grated cheese. Place under the broiler a few seconds until the cheese is melted.