Just over a year ago I made my first attempt at cooking dried beans. Ever since, whenever I eat the canned variety I’m immediately struck by their metallic taste. Needless to say, I am now completely hooked on making them from scratch — the flavor payoff is extraordinary for such little effort. Additionally, the liquid that remains after cooking (or “bean broth” as I like to call it) is so tasty that I was inspired to create a bean soup in order to avoid wasting this
magical delicious elixir. Which leads us to this recipe.
Cooking the beans in chicken stock, without first soaking them overnight in water, pays off is a few ways. First, it eliminates an unnecessary step that creates more advance planning and prep work, not to mention additional dishes to clean. Some say that the nutrients leach out into the soaking water, which is then dumped down the drain, so those are preserved, too (not sure how true this is, but why risk it?). Plus, this method helps to season the beans, while they in turn make the broth thicker, almost creamy, which is a nice textural bonus.
Enough about the beans, though. This is fantastic soup to use up any bits and bobs that you might find in the fridge. A couple stalks of celery, less-than-gorgeous carrots, the green tops that you cut off of some fresh beets (or kohlrabi) but you didn’t know what to do with and could not bear to throw out (that’s never happened to me), and leftover cooked chicken can all be utilized here to great effect.
At the end of the day, it’s really a “choose your own adventure” type of dish, which is really useful to have in ones repertoire. Who would have thought bean soup could be so much fun?
Bean and Bacon Soup
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours 30 minutes/>
- 4 ounces (112 grams) Pancetta¹, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 1 cup (113 grams or 1 small) Onion, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (57 grams or 2 stalks) Celery, very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams or 8 large cloves) Garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Mild Smoked Paprika
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves, minced
- 1/4 cup (57 grams) Dry Vermouth or White Wine
- 8 ounces (1 cup) Dried Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained (do not soak)
- 4 cups Chicken Stock
- 3/4 cup (112 grams or 4 thin) Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 2 cups, packed (4-6 ounces or 1 bunch) Cooking Greens²
, cut into roughly 1″ pieces
- 1 to 2 cups (4-8 ounces) Cooked Chicken, cut into 1/2″ cubes (optional
- Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 4 ounces Pre-cooked Chicken Sausage (Andouille, Kielbasa or Spicy Italian), cut into 1/4″ cubes and crisp in a frying pan during the last 15 minutes (while the greens are cooking)
Place a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until some fat renders out, but it is not crisp — about 2 minutes. Stir in onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft but not browned — about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly for up to 1 minute to soften (do not let garlic brown — it will taste bitter). Stir in smoked paprika and rosemary; cook, stirring constantly, for up to 1 minute or until the vegetables are well-coated and the spices are fragrant.
Pour in vermouth (or white wine), and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan (deglazing). Add dried beans and cook mixture until nearly all of the moisture in the pot is absorbed — about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a hard boil (meaning if you stir the mixture, it will still bubble) for 5 minutes. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
After simmering for 2 hours, the beans should be softened, but not yet creamy in the middle. At this point, stir in the carrots, cover, and cook the soup for about 1 more hour or until the beans are cooked through.
Season the soup with salt (about 1 teaspoon) and black pepper. Stir in greens and cooked, chopped chicken (if using), cover pot, and cook until the greens are tender and chicken is hot — about 15 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls, top with crisped sausage (if using), and serve.
¹ Pancetta can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and many other markets. I typically purchase Citterio Cubetti at Trader Joe’s (it comes in a 4 ounce package and is already cubed). Otherwise, I will go to the deli section and have them slice a quarter pound of pancetta 1/4″ thick, and cube it at home.
² Swiss Chard, Kale, Beet, Kolhrabi, etc. — whatever you like!