John's Grandmother's White Bean Soup

This recipe is from a wonderful chef that I'm proud to call friend. <a href="">Chef John Ash </a>is a culinary instructor, restaurant owner, cook book author, radio host, etc., in California. Most of all he is just a really nice guy. Please visit his blog. This recipe appears in his last cookbook <em>From the Earth to the Table</em>. He has a new one scheduled for next year, <em>Culinary Birds</em>. The name may change, but not the wonderful "John" recipes. Did I mention this is my favorite white bean soup!

This looks like a long list of ingredients, and it is, but most, or all you will already have on hand. Thank you John and your Grandma.

John's Grandmother's White Bean Soup
10-12 servings
print recipe

2 cups dried Great Northern Beans or navy beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onions
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock, homemade preferred
2 cups dry white wine
1 pound meaty smoked ham hocks
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 large bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups seeded and diced fresh ripe tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes, include juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
Freshly grated Parmesan or dry Jack cheese for garnish

Sort through the beans to remove any debris. Rinse thoroughly and soak overnight in enough water to cover the beans by at least 3 inches. Drain before adding to the pot the next day.

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery until they just begin to color. Add the drained beans, stock, wine, ham hocks, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30-40 minutes (mine usually take an hour), or until the beans are tender, not mushy. Add the tomatoes and parsley. Remove from the heat. (At this point, the soup can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator overnight, if you want, to develop the flavors and to congeal the fat so that it is easily removed.)

Skim any fat from the soup. Remove the bay leaves and the ham hocks, discard any skin or fat, shred the meat, and return it to the soup. Heat to a simmer. Just before serving, stir in the cabbage. Serve the soup and pass the Parmesan cheese.

Cook's Note: I find it easier to shred the meat from the ham hocks before storing it overnight. Plus the puppies don't have to wait for their ham bones.