I am trying desperately to cut back on our grocery cost. I almost always go over on my grocery budget and that is money that I can spend on fun things like rag doll patterns and new shoes and such. Enter white bean soup. I really enjoy making and eating soup. Next to working as a pastry chef, being a saucier and making soup and sauce all day long was probably my favorite position. I never made country-ish soups like this one as a professional chef. We made much more refined soups but I really enjoy country soups made from items on hand. I have no less than 3 ham bones in my freezer at a given time and white beans cost .89 cents a bag! Here is a recipe for a very basic but delicious white bean soup -
1 pound navy beans, picked over, rinsed and drained
10 sprigs parsley with stems
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 large smoked ham bones
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
8 cups of chicken stock or cold water
2 medium carrot, thick slices
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Butter for garnish
Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by about 3 inches and soak overnight. I have hard well water, so if I use the tap water, I add a teaspoon on baking soda to help soften the water. Drain and reserve. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf together with kitchen twine.
In a large soup pot combine the beans, herb bundle, ham bones, onions, carrots and garlic with the stock or water. Bring to a boil, cover, and adjust the heat so the soup cooks at a simmer. Cook until the beans and ham bones are completely tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
Turn off the heat and remove the hocks. Cool slightly. Remove the meat from the hocks, discarding the bones and fat. Cut the meat into small cubes. Remove the herbs and discard.
I use a potato masher to mash up some of the beans. You can put some of the beans and liquid into the blender but then you have to clean the blender. I have a hand held immersion blender as well but if the beans a cooked well and are soft, the potato masher works well. Adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. To serve divide the soup among bowls and place a small pat of butter on top each soup and serve.