Thursday, April 5, 2012

ham and beans

We have had, by any account, a strange winter and spring.  Only one or two real snows, and only a couple inches at that.  Highs in the 70s in January.  Highs in the 80s in March!  If things continue in the way they're trending, this summer will be unbearable.  I loathe hot temperatures, and even Kansas feels too sweltering in summer for me.  I think I was born to be Canadian.

Today was a welcome exception.  A perfect "April showers" day:  dark and overcast, intermittently sprinkling and hovering around 65.  A soup day.

I'd been meaning to make something with a pound of dry white beans in the back of my cupboard, because we're moving (!) and I need to start using up all my excess dry goods.  Remembering to soak them ahead is kind of a pain in the ass, but it must be done.

This is kind of the spring counterpart to the fall dish I posted last September.  This one uses ham and white beans, rather than andouille and kidney beans.

Ham and Beans
2 C dry white beans, such as cannellini
baking soda
2 T butter
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped small
3 stalks celery, chopped small
1 ham hock OR 1/4 lb thick-sliced deli ham cut into a dice
chicken stock OR water
salt and pepper

The night before you want to make this, combine beans with water to cover and mix in a tablespoon or two of baking soda.  Leave on the counter to soak.  When you're ready to cook, drain and rinse the beans.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.  Add a bit of salt to help them release their juice.  Add the ham and cook for another five minutes or so.  Stir in the beans.  Add enough chicken stock or water to cover.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook until beans are soft (about forty-five minutes).  If you used the ham hock, pull it out after awhile and let it cool, then shred the meat and add it back into the pot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

I served this with a pan of cornbread, cooked as I usually do in my cast iron skillet.  I love cooking with cast iron because it's naturally nonstick, and it imparts a little extra iron into your foods.

Both me and the little one loved this.  Everything got nice and soft so she could gum it up, and the flavors were just right.  Enjoy soup while you can!

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