White bean soup with ham hocks
By Rob McDaniel
1 cup of dried white beans (we use great northern beans)
4 stalks of celery
5 ounces of ham hocks
½ Guajillo chili
4 sprigs of thyme
4 garlic cloves
Whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
It’s best to start with dried white beans, however, to save time, you may use canned beans. If you use canned beans, be sure to strain them and wash them very well before using. When cooking dried beans, first put the beans on a flat tray and check for rocks that sometimes get included in packages of beans.
I always start by putting the dried beans in a large pot of cold unsalted water. Bring the beans to a boil, pour hot water off. Then I add the ham hock and a sachet made of cheese cloth tied around chopped celery, carrot and onion, chili, thyme, cloves, bay leaf, garlic and black peppercorns.
Add enough fresh water to cover ingredients with about 2 inches of water, bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer. Cook until the beans are tender. You don’t have to worry about overcooking the beans because you will puree them later. Keep an eye on the level of cooking liquid, you may have to add more water as you go. Remove sachet and ham hocks. Let the ham hocks cool, pick the meat off and set aside.
Puree the beans and cooking liquid in a food processor or a blender, filling bowl about halfway with beans and adding cooking liquid until it fills about ¾ of the work bowl.
Puree in stages and put the soup in a serving bowl. Add ham, season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh herbs or a little olive oil. Serve with cornbread or toasted bread spread with roasted garlic. This recipe serves four.
For the recipe pictured here, I chose to puree the soup, but you can just as easily leave the beans whole.
Rob McDainel, Executive Chef and General Manager at SpringHouse Restaurant on Lake Martin.