The girl’s are still sick so I am still making comfort soups. Bean today, for variety.
I wanted something a bit more than U.S. Senate Navy Bean Soup (beans, onion, butter, ham hock and water), but not the many ingredient soups I found on the internet. Bean soup should always be about the beans. Any addition to the basic recipe should enhance the bean flavor not drown it out.
Celery? Yes. Carrots? No. One recipe I found used marjoram, but the 2 tablespoons called for would drown out any other flavor. One half teaspoon would give a hint of the marjoram flavor that would complement the beans without assaulting them. A bit of garlic? Of course, if you have been reading my blog you will know how my family feels about garlic. Some chicken broth? A little, to enhance the flavor, but not so much that it becomes chicken soup with beans. A touch of salt and pepper to taste would make the soup nearly complete. Come tasting time, Jan said that it was flat and it still needed something. More garlic and pepper was the ticket.
One thing my mother, Claudia, used to add to soups was celery leaves. Most cooks, when they use celery, will chop up the stalks and throw away the leaves. The reason for this is that, if you add the leaves at the beginning, they will give the soup a bitter taste. Claudia’s secret was to add them at the last minute when they act as only a slightly bitter garnish. A bit of flat leaved parsley? Yes, this would give you an interesting two-toned garnish that could finish the soup.
I served Guinness Beer Bread with this soup. A few weeks ago I made some candied orange peel. When I was done I was left with a bag of orange infused sugar. I thought that this might be a place to use it and it was a winner! You could not taste a distinct orange flavor, but it was a classic secret ingredient, an indefinable enhancement to the flavor.
Changes after the meal: This was absolutely a delicious and satisfying soup. It had a good balance between beans and broth, but there was only enough soup for three hungry people. When I make it again I will double this recipe, so that we will have leftovers.
Karl’s Navy Bean Soup
2 Tbs. butter
1 small onion, chopped fine
5 cloves garlic, separate uses
2 small celery stalks, chopped fine, leaves reserved
1 can low sodium chicken broth
½ tsp. marjoram
1 cup navy beans
1 large ham hock
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. Italian parsley
1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over a medium heat and sauté the onions and celery until they just start picking up some color.
2. Add two minced cloves of garlic and sauté for one minute more.
3. Add the chicken broth, marjoram, beans and 6 cups of water.
4. Score the skin of the ham hock with a knife and add it to the pot.
5. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, until the beans are fully cooked.
6. Remove the ham hocks and any bits of the skin that have come loose. Strip off any meat, shred it and return it to the pot.
7. Add the remaining 3 minced cloves of garlic and salt and pepper as needed.
8. Serve, garnished with finely chopped Italian parsley and celery leaves, with Guinness Beer Bread on the side.