Ted Allen's Heirloom Bean Soup

This is one of my most prized cookbooks.  Not only for the recipes, which are truly for those who love to cook, but also because this book is signed by Mr. Allen!  I wish I could stay I met him, but I ordered it special to be signed.  Maybe some day I'll get to meet him...for now, I'll just continue to enjoy his recipes and his hosting of Food Network shows. On to the recipe!  Speaking of the recipe, if you enjoy this, I highly recommend purchasing the book...there are many gems like this one!

This is a pretty simple, but flavorful dish.  We used our leftover ham bones and ham from Easter, but you can purchase a smoked ham hock as the recipe states, we've made it that way too.  I also believe this would be just as delicious made vegan, as ham is the only non-plant/spice in this dish...as long as you ignore the huge hunk of Italian bread slathered with unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt we serve this with...

We soak our beans overnight with some baking powder, drain and rinse for the soup.  I pretty much like making this just for the smell of the soffritto and spices sauteing together in the beginning!

Heirloom Beans with Pork, Soffritto, and Smoke
from Ted Allen's In My Kitchen ©2012


1 pound dried beans (we used navy beans this time, I usually prefer pinto and cannelini)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons chili or chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 chopped seeded jalapeno chile
1 smoked ham hock (we used ham bones and chopped leftover ham)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with cotton string
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse and pick over the beans (after soaking over night or at least 2-3 hours), discarding any small stones or other debris.  

2. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the oil, and then cook the onion, celery, and carrot until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, and if using, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the beans, ham hock, thyme, and water to cover the beans by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. After an hour, spoon out a few beans and taste for tenderness.  Keep cooking and testing as needed, checking at least every 15 minutes, as things speed up toward the end of the process.  Add small amounts of hot water, if needed.  When the beans are tender and the liquid is creamy and thickened, they're ready. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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