Winter is here, and with it comes my favorite, soup season. Second only to cooking with cognac season. The best soups start with bones, so as you bake those holiday hams, chickens, and turkeys – be planning your best soups yet! Beans are another food group I didn’t consume until at least 25, so in a way, I’m still easing my way into legumes. I use navy beans because they are small and extremely mild. If you want a more robust white bean flavor, you can try Great Northern or Cannellini. The bacon crumble topping is a game changer in terms of texture and flavor. You could also top with fresh chives, scallions, queso fresco, or crostini.
Creamy White Bean Soup Recipe with Bacon Crumble Topping
makes about 5 qts
Meaty Ham Shank Bone
6 strips of bacon
1 large white onion, chopped
16 baby carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 cans Navy beans, rinsed thoroughly and drained
Cover your ham bone completely with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cook as long as you possibly can. This round I did for probably six hours. Every 2 hours check to see if you need to add any water to combat evaporation. In a pinch, an hour and a half will still create a really nice soup base, the flavor just grows exponentially with time. Use a slotted spoon to remove large bones, then strain soup base through a strainer and set aside.
Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium high heat. Using kitchen shears, snip bacon into small pieces about 3/4 to an inch in width. Stir with a wooden spatula to brown. Watch heat and lower as needed to prevent over browning. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon crumbles to a paper towel.
Drain most of the bacon grease from your sauce pan. Add onion and carrots, saute over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, saute another 2 minutes. Pour 6 cups of soup base into pan. Add tomato paste, and whisk until dissolved. Add three shakes of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 45 minutes. Using a ladle, remove 5 large ladles of bean mixture, and reserve. Use an immersion blender, or work in small batches in a food processor or blender, to cream your soup. Add back the reserved whole bean mixture. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. The amount of salt required will depend on the saltiness of your ham bone. It may could require none at all, just start slowly and cautiously when adjusting seasonings.
Serve topped with bacon pieces and with crusty bread.