Accidental ham & bean soup

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When you find yourself with a half-eaten Honeybaked Ham, you know it’s time to make ham & bean soup. There are probably more complex recipes out there. But I use a simple one scribbled years ago while my mom rattled off the basic ingredients over the phone.

I’m calling this version ‘accidental’ because it came out extra good through no doing of mine. I sent Barrak to Kroger to get dried pinto or Great Northern beans and he came back with a mixed bag of 16 different dried beans. It includes pintos, blackeye peas, barley, navy, large and baby lima, white, red kidney, great northern, lentils and more.

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I’m not sure which of those 16 varietals should get credit — or if it’s due to the brown sugar crust on the ham — but the soup came out so mild and salty-sweet. It was kind of a revelation. Here’s the gist of the recipe:

  • Tablespoon of olive oil for sautéing
  • Honeybaked Ham — the bone + 2-3 cups of ham chopped off it
  • Bag of 16 dried beans (we used Kroger brand) / NOTE: chuck the ‘ham flavor packet’ that comes inside the bag
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • Tablespoon or more of fresh thyme leaves
  • Black pepper & NO salt (you get enough from the ham)
  • Bay leaf
  • About 8 cups of stock (I used 2 cups of leftover homemade vegetable stock + an entire box of chicken stock)

This one has to simmer away for a good long while. If you start around 11am, it should be irresistible by dinnertime.

First, follow the directions on the bag of dried beans for a “fast soak.” Basically, you put the beans in a large stock pot, cover with two inches of cold water and bring it to a rapid boil for two minutes. Then remove from the heat, cover and let it sit while you drive to the gym, sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes listening to the astronaut Commander Chris Hatfield on Fresh Air, go inside the gym and do your thing, go to Kroger to buy cinnamon raisin bread for the kids’ toast and Silk Almond Milk Light for your husband’s protein shakes and drive home. That’s probably 2 1/2 hours. Drain and rinse the cooked beans in a colander.

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Pretty!

Next, sauté chopped carrots, onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add thyme, bay leaf and black pepper. Add ham bone, ham, cooked beans and enough stock to make it a soup. You could even use water. Any meat still on the ham bone will slowly fall off while simmering on medium-low heat.

Let it simmer and thicken up while you putz around the house, shower, start putting Christmas decorations away, and the like. Then leave it slow-bubbling away on low while you make a dusk-hour run to Toys R Us so the kids can spend their gift cards from Aunt Kathy.

After returning your filthy mini-van to its cold spot in the garage a few hours later, lugging a newly purchased Glitzi Globes art set and smoke-breathing dragon into the house, throwing puffy coats and hats all over the kitchen table, and rushing some chicken nuggets into the oven for the kids, it’s time to ladle up this soul-warming goodness.

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Have your ham & bean soup with a cold Stella Artois for maximum enjoyment.

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