This soup is a bowl of comfort on a frigid winter night. It uses a large smoked ham hock. I like a deep smoke on my specialty meats, and I source from our local German smokehouse. Fragrant without overpowering the dish, the ham hocks infuse the broth and the flavor of the diced meat just intensifies as it sits.
I made this recipe easy to prep, as I skipped the sautéing of the mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion.) Just toss it all in the simmering stock.
The steaming soup wears a dusting of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese quite well. Gild the lily with a tumble of homemade croutons for crunch. These and the stock can be made a day ahead. Serves 6.
Smoky Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup
For the croutons:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss everything in a large bowl until bread cubes are well coated. Spread out in one layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir, rotate pan and bake for another 5 minutes until browned. Let cool.
For the ham stock:
Combine 5 qt. water, 2 bay leaves and a 1½ to 2 lb. ham hock in a heavy soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. (You could also use ½ to ¾ lb. baked ham in a medium dice.)
Shut off stock and allow fat to rise. Remove ham hock and let cool. Skim fat from the stock, then turn heat up to high. Reduce, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. This will intensify the flavor.
Have ready and add:
Simmer over medium low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, uncovered. Meanwhile, dice meat from cooled ham hock and set aside.
Add to pot:
½ bunch washed kale, ribs and stems discarded. Rough chop the kale leaves. Simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, until kale is tender. (It takes a little while.)
Shut off heat and add:
Using an immersion blender, puree very briefly by pulsing in spots, just to thicken the soup a bit. Stir and add another 15.5 oz. can of drained Goya cannellini beans.
Add more salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls and top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some croutons. Serve immediately.
Patty Boissonneault has been a banquet chef since 1983. In addition, she has helped open an Italian bistro and a wedding facility at a local country club. She is owner of a home-based gourmet gift basket company, The Gifted Gourmet, LLC and currently works for The Farmington Club in Connecticut. Patty is part of a team that caters to all social gatherings, as well as the Farmington Polo Club.