One of my favorite soups is Navy Bean. It's funny to say it's one of my favorites because I really don't have it very often. It's not typically available on menus and not that many people make it. I found myself craving this early in the week and started looking online for recipes. Many people call this soup Senate Bean soup because it has been on the Senate's Restaurant menu since the early 20th century. I looked up this recipe and like the other few I found, I just wasn't too inspired by them.
Most bean soups have you simmer the beans with water and ham hocks, and maybe some sauteed onion. I just don't like ham hocks. They gross me out and I find the meat on them unappetizing. I would prefer to use a bone from a spiral ham but I also don't bake too many hams. So, without the main flavor component of the bone or the hock, I was left to create my own soup.
I started with a slice of bacon in my soup pot. I rendered the fat, removed the bacon, leaving the drippings in the bottom of the pan. From there, I added my aromatics: leeks, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Surely, bacon fat is less healthy than olive oil, but the flavor from the bacon is crucial. Once the vegetables were softened, I added the navy beans, 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water. I threw in some sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and some freshly ground pepper. From there, it simmered for about 3 hours. You have to keep an eye on it, making sure to add more water if necessary. After the beans were tender, I added some diced ham and a healthy squirt of ketchup. The ketchup is sort of random, but I remember my mom adding it to her bean soup that she'd make with a left-over ham bone from Easter. It gives the soup a little something- a complexity of flavor that ties it all together. The result was a bowl of soup that was soul-satisfying. The kind of meal that warms you up on the inside and leaves you feeling completely content. Adam had two big bowls and wanted to take the leftovers for lunch. I said, "Not this time buddy, Prego gets the soup!" Needless to say, this will be making a regular appearance in our winter meal planning. Here is the recipe in its entirety for you to enjoy. If you do try it out, please comment back any adjustments or feedback you have!
Navy Bean Soup with Ham
1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight, covering with 2 inches of water
1 Slice Bacon, for drippings
1 Large Carrot, diced
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Leek, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
Freshly Ground Pepper
1-2 tsp Ketchup
2 Cups Diced Ham (I used a small ham steak... use as much or as little ham as you like)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Soak navy beans overnight, leaving two inches of water to cover
Drain and rinse navy beans.
In a stock pot, or dutch oven, cook one slice of bacon to render the fat. Remove the bacon from the pot, leaving the drippings. Add diced carrot, cooking for about 3 minutes. Add onion, leek, and celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Add the beans, stock and water. Put the thyme sprigs in whole, along with the bay leaf. Give the pot a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. Stir and bring the pot to a boil. Cover the pot, leaving the lid cracked, and simmer for 3 hours or until the beans are tender. Check on the soup occasionally, as the beans will absorb the liquid, add more water if necessary. Once the beans are tender, remove thyme and bay leaf. Add ketchup and diced ham. Stir and simmer until the ham is heated through. Salt & Pepper at this point. Ham can be salty, so you may not need any additional salt.