If you’re like me, these days our legislative branch makes you go all frothy at the mouth. So why, you ask, would I endorse something that is served daily (and has been for many, many years) in the Senate cafeteria? I offer the following reasons:
- This soup won’t make you the laughing-stock of the free world.
- This soup won’t spiral you down into debt.
- You’re not stuck with this soup for the next six years, especially if it’s really bad.
- And, finally, unlike its name-sake, this soup gets the job done.
Rancho Gordo Senate Bean Soup
Adapted from Heirloom Beans
If you don’t have the yellow-eye beans that are called for in this recipe, you can opt for the navy beans (or any white bean that will break down and become creamy) that are traditionally used. If you use grocery-store beans, you should soak them before cooking so that the soup will be done on schedule. If you’re worried about nutrient loss, it is perfectly ok to use the soaking-water in the soup.
I like this soup to be really thick (similar to split-pea soup’s consistency), so I cook it for quite a bit longer than indicated below so that the beans totally break down. Other people may prefer a soupier soup, so if you’re in that camp you should cook it for less time.
Your ham-hocks may be sufficiently salty that you don’t need to add any additional salt to the beans. Be sure to taste it before adding any!
I made this soup five days before I gave birth to my baby. So yes, it really is an easy soup to put together, because believe me, I wasn’t doing cooking that required lots of on-feet time by that point.
1 pound yellow eye beans, sorted and washed
3 pounds of smoked ham hocks
12 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
A bunch of fresh thyme sprigs (tied together with kitchen twine, if you like), plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a soup-pot or Dutch oven, combine beans, ham hocks, water, and bay leaves. Simmer until the beans are beginning to soften, about 1 hour.
When the beans are nearly done, bring the oil to a shimmer over medium heat in a skillet. Saute the onion and celery until soft and beginning to take on some color, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.
Add the sauteed veg, fresh thyme, and pepper to the soup pot. Continue to simmer the mixture until the beans are very soft and beginning to break down, about another hour. The meat should also be falling off of the ham-hock.
When the soup has reached your desired level of done-ness, remove the thyme bundle and ham-hocks and let cool. When at a handle-able temperature, remove the meat from the bone and shred it with two forks. Put the meat back in the soup pot. Adjust seasonings, top with more fresh thyme, and serve.