Friday, October 31, 2008

rock soup

I was thinking about the fable of rock soup when I was making this. Perhaps all the talk about the economy has me fearing I will be forced to eat rock soup but I like to think my thoughts were driven by light-hearted memories of grade school. As a child, I enjoyed the hearing the story so immensely! I found it to be funny and I think that for as much as my eight year old brain could grasp the concept of irony, I kind of got it.

Here's the short version - some travelers (in some versions they are soldiers) come to a village with an empty pot and although the travelers are very hungry, the villagers are not willing to share any of their food. The travelers fill the pot with water and drop a rock in it, and put it over a fire. A villager becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers reply that they are making "rock soup", which they say is really wonderful but could be made better by adding some carrots or onions, which the villager shares with them. Again, other villagers ask what they are doing and the travelers say that the rock soup is getting there but would be better with some potatoes, seasonings, etc. Each villager adds something until the travelers finally have an edible and nutritious soup to eat, which they share with the villagers.

I had one ambitious teacher in maybe the third or fourth grade who actually made rock soup with us one day. What a hoot that was for me! I remember telling my father about it when I came home from school and since my dad was as much of a nerd as I was/still am, he really found it amusing. Or at least he pretended to.

This is actually ham and bean soup. I am a big fan of country type soups made with what is normally considered to be trash items such as ham hocks and beans. My husband and I really both enjoyed this soup with some homemade bread. I think I have posted bean soup on this blog before but this is a different recipe. I think. Yes, it is since I was looking to make it less rich and more of a broth based soup. I did not puree any of the beans here and I omitted the pat of butter for serving. Instead, this soup has red wine vinegar stirred in at the end, which gave it a nice acidity that is not overpowering at all.

Ham and bean soup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound diced ham
1 onion,chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs,chopped
6 garlic cloves,minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 smoked ham hocks
1 pound dried navy beans,soaked overnight in cold water
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add diced ham and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, water, hocks, and beans. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are completely tender and soup is slightly thickened, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the hocks from pot. (If desired, let cool 5 minutes, then shred meat and add to soup.) Stir in thyme, pepper, and vinegar. Serve.

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