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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hamzilla is Dead; Long Live Hamzilla: Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup

Recently I was rooting around deep inside my freezer, looking for ice packs for lunch boxes. Whatever little piece of DNA compels normal humans to clean out their lunch boxes after school and refreeze the ice pack is obviously missing in the genetic makeup of the people who live in my house.

So. Anyway. I'm rooting around deep inside the freezer and I come across a large chunk of something that I can't identify at first. And then it hits me... it's the final remains of Hamzilla!  Okay, fine, he's been in the freezer quite awhile (probably a whole lot longer than the FDA would recommend for food safety purposes). And okay, fine, he's a little frost-bitten around the edges (because I apparently was so sick of him I just threw him unadorned into a gallon-zip-lock without even wrapping him in saran wrap first)... but these are mere trifles and NOTHING a soak in some brothy soup can't cure.

And better yet, I know exactly the brothy deliciousness I want to soak him in. Lately, I have been absolutely craving a particular soup I haven't posted yet. It's hearty, with the perfect notes of smoke from ham AND bacon and a good amount of heat. I scored the original of this recipe from a recipe swapping forum I've been a part of  practically since the internet was invented. The poster who shared said it was her dad's favorite soup and she tried to make a pot of it every year. I've made adjustments over time to suit my tastes... but the basics of his recipe are still there. You can find his original recipe here... shout-out to magnoliainchicago! He called it Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup.  I call it a perfect send-off.

RIP Hamzilla.
In mah belly.

Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup
adapted and inspired by Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup

1 lb. white beans, soaked overnight (I have used canned in the past when I didn't have time, and it worked fine too)
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
2 yellow onions, diced (3 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (2 cups)
4 celery stalks, diced (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. seasoned salt (I like Johnny's the best)
1 t. paprika
12 c. water
2 t. Tabasco (or less, if you don't like much heat)
1 T sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
Leftover ham - either on the bone or off - today I had about a 2 lb. section.

Heat a large (really, think LARGE) heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add diced bacon, and sauté until fat has rendered and it crisps up. Remove all but about 3 T. of the bacon fat and add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring often to bring the bacon fond up off the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots and celery and continue to sauté another 5 minutes or so. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt, and paprika and stir to combine.

Pour water over vegetables, and add the beans, Tabasco, sugar, and ketchup to the pot. Stir to combine well and then add your leftover ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to allow soup to simmer, uncovered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender and the ham is falling apart.

Remove ham from soup, allow to cool slightly, then shred and add back into soup.

And in the words of magnoliainchicago's dad, "EAT IT!"

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