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Bean Soup, Re-Engineered

When Darwin and I ate at the Whitney, his soup course included a bean soup that we found absolutely delicious.  I tasted a few spoonfuls of it and decided I could reverse engineer it at home.  On Sunday, I did, and the results were delightful.  This was no small feat in a household where I'm the only one who much likes bean soup.

The soup is different in that it's pureed and creamed, which adds unexpected body and richness to the dish. It's suprisingly easy to make.


1 pound navy beans, washed
one ham bone, with meat still clinging
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken bouillon (low sodium so you can control the amount of salt)
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1 t garlic powder
1/2 t white pepper
salt to taste
1/2 c cream
freshly ground pepper

Put all ingredients into slow cooker and set to low for six to seven hours or high for about four hours, until beans are tender.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

Soak beans overnight in stock, or eight hours.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to boiling on stove, reduce heat, and simmer for at least half an hour, until beans are fully tender and flavors are blended.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

With a hand-held blending wand, puree soup, or puree it in a blender, food processor, or vegetable ricer until all beans are broken down.  (I prefer the wand method.)  Return to pot, if in blender, and reduce to low heat.  When soup is at a temperature that you can take a bite without needing to blow on it first, stir in the cream.  Correct seasoning.

The soup is ready to eat. However, to serve it original style, as it is at the Whitney, place a small piece of toasted, buttered brioche or other hearty bread in the bottom of a soup bowl or tureen.  Pour the soup around, but not over, the bread.  (It's all right if the soup ends up covering the bread.)  Give one, and only one, turn of the pepper mill over the bowl and serve.

If you don't go Whitney style, your instincts might tell you to make corn bread instead.  Although corn bread is the traditional complement with bean soup, the soup itself is extremely hearty, and you'll find that a hefty slice of cornbread would be overdoing it on all but the coldest of winter days.  I served a batch of home made blueberry muffins instead, and the slight sweetness of the light muffins perfectly set off salty, pureed soup.


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