Have you ever have a favorite lunch or dinner place that you max out on or move further away from and then totally forget about for awhile? Then one day something trips a magical memory trigger and you suddenly ask yourself why it’s been forever since their deliciousness has crossed your path?
This happened to me recently and in my case, it’s an extremely tiny and eclectic soup place. A Milwaukee “soup Nazi” of sorts that I worked by for years until my career took me around town for a few years to offices far from his shop. When I moved back to a downtown office almost two years ago, I had all but forgotten about the place – until a few weeks ago. It was one of those first grey, gloomy and freezing pre-winter days and a Whole Foods salad just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed warm, hearty soup and BOOM, memory trigger tripped.
I ordered a Northern Bean and Ham Soup and couldn’t stop thinking about it so I took my own riff on recreating it for home – swapping his rice for barley and tossing in a few more vegetables from the remains of my CSA. Now, even though I’ll be going back again soon, I’ve got a permanent reminder in my files.
White Bean & Ham Soup
8-10oz smoked ham hock, deboned and cubed
1 C pearl barley
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 C swiss chard or kale, stems removed & leaves chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans great Northern white beans
5 C chicken stock
1 C half and half or 2% milk
6 Tbsp butter
Prep and chop all vegetables. Melt butter in a large stock pot and once almost melted, add onion, carrot and celery. Saute vegetables over medium heat for 6-8 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Once they begin to soften, add garlic and saute another 3-4 minutes. Add small amounts of chicken stock as needed if vegetables begin to stick to the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom into the stock.
Add ham, beans, barley and remaining stock. Stir to combine and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then add kale/chard and half and half. Continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, checking to see that barley is fully cooked. Season well with salt – about 1-2 tsp – until flavors pop.