It’s no secret that we love soups around here. And it seems like every year I find one during “soup season” that I just keep making over and over again. Right now, it’s this one. I’ve been wanting to post it for months and with all of the holiday festivities around here it kept getting pushed off. I know ham and bean soup probably doesn’t sound super exciting, but you’ve got to believe me when I tell you how good it is!
This recipe is in honor of my Dad. For as long as I can remember the only soup I’ve ever seen him eat is Bean with Bacon, and he loves it. I’m talking about the condensed kind in the ol’ red and white can. Just the smell of it brings back memories of my childhood and my parents and the house I grew up in. Maybe that’s when last fall on a cold rainy day I found myself craving soup. That soup. My Mom had a horrible accident and I was hundreds of miles away just worrying and stressing and trying to sort through a rush of emotions and memories. Funny how I sat there all curled up and all I wanted was bean with bacon soup- something I hadn’t had in years! Food has a way of conjuring up memories and feelings like nothing else. It’s why every Christmas I still make the same meal that I ate every Christmas morning growing up, and why when I miss Brazil and the people there I make Black Bean Soup, and why when I’m stuffed up and feeling sick I drink hot jello, just like my Mom used to make. Food connects us with our past and has a special way of soothing our souls. Why else do girls all over the world reach out for the Ben and Jerry’s at the first sign of a broken heart?!
Back on that on that cold fall night I sat there awake in bed avoiding stress and unpleasantness by trying to configure a recipe (I tend to cook when I’m under pressure. My college roommates always loved me during finals week!) I wanted the soup to taste smoky, and be creamy, without having lots of calories or artificial smokey ingredients. So it gets the yummy natural flavors from bacon and ham, smoked paprika and just a touch of liquid smoke. And a quick puree instantly turns it from a simmered broth to a rich and creamy meal. Dare I say this may even be Man Soup. You know, the kind that a guy can eat for dinner and not have to have a course of cereal, cold pizza, and chips after because he’s still hungry. Pair it with some warm breadsticks, or a grilled cheese sandwich and you’ve got yourself comfort in a bowl. Hope you love this as much as I do!
8 slices bacon
1 C diced onion
3 cloves garlic
8 oz diced smoked Ham (about 2 C)
2 red potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces (2-2 1/2C)
2 cans Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
3 14 oz cans chicken broth
optional: 1/2-1 tsp liquid smoke
Slice bacon into bite-size pieces. Cook in a large stock pot until crisp. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 Tablespoon bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest (dump it in one of those empty bean cans).
Yum, bacon. Have I mentioned that it’s one of my 3 favorite foods? Right up there with chocolate and garlic. Separate of course. Only crazy people like my friend Carly dislike bacon. Crazy, really.
Add diced onion and garlic to pan with reserved bacon drippings and saute for about 2 minutes. While you do this step contemplate if there anything in the world that smells as good as garlic and onion sauteing in bacon drippings.
Add diced ham, beans, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to pan and stir to combine. Then add the broth and the potatoes. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and stir in bacon and liquid smoke to taste if you choose to use it. Take 3 cups of the soup and place in the blender (leave the plug in the lid off to let steam escape and cover with a paper towel to avoid splashes while you blend). Blend until completely smooth. You could also use an immersion blender in place of a blender if you have one.
Add blended soup back to pot and stir to combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. The need for salt really depends on the ham and bacon you use so I kept it low on purpose. Ladle into bowls and top with extra bacon if desired (for me? always desired).
I also love it with some crunchy croutons on top!
Makes about 8 cups.