Ham it up this Easter
With Peter Cottontail gearing up to make his annual trip down the bunny trail, it’s time to start planning our Easter menus. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, chances are you’re going to get your fair share of ham in some form or another.
I can’t think of anything more appropriate for the celebration than a beautifully cooked, lightly glazed and perfectly smoked ham as a centerpiece on the buffet. The preparation is as easy as it gets, requiring one to merely cook it at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes per pound until the internal temp at its thickest part reaches 145 degrees. There’s the prep, the feast, then what to do with the carcass of the beast?
It’s the same dilemma we face at just about every holiday. After a second round of the reheated leftovers are consumed, then we may have a sandwich or two, but after you get hammed out in a few days, it’s time to change the profile and bring it to the next level.
With cooler temps still hanging around, it’s a perfect time to try your hand at one of my favorite soups that satisfies the soul and fills the house with amazing aromas of home cooked goodness – Navy Bean and Ham.
This is a perfect way to utilize every sweet, smokey morsel of meat still on the bone by simmering it with navy beans, aromatic vegetables and a light stock until the meat releases, infuses its deep flavors into the broth and creates a harmonious cascade of depth and flavor.
The biggest key to the success of this soup is to use dried beans and soak them overnight in the fridge, in the kettle you’re going to cook the soup in. The difference between soaking the beans yourself and buying them in a can is night and day.
The texture is far superior, takes up less room in your pantry and is far less expensive to make. And remember the song “Beans, beans, the magical fruit?” That was written about canned beans; dried beans don’t have the same effect. You’re welcome. Enjoy!
Navy Bean and Ham Soup
Soak 1 pound dried Navy beans in a large kettle covered in 4 cups water overnight in the fridge – (at least 16 hours and up to 24 hours).
The next day, place the kettle on the stove over medium high heat, then add:
6 cups chicken stock
Leftover ham bone with meat still attached. If you have a ham without a bone, wait to add the diced ham until you add the aromatic vegetables.
2 bay leaves
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let beans cook for about 90 minutes or until beans are just starting to get soft. Then add:
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
2 – 4 cups Leftover diced ham
3 Tablespoons ketchup
Bring to a simmer and let cook for another 30 to 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender and soup is getting slightly thicker.
We haven’t added salt at this point because the ham is salty and the stock has salt. Adjust seasonings just before service or you risk the soup being too salty. At this point I sometimes use a potato masher to smash the beans a bit just to help add texture to the soup and it helps tighten it up a bit. Enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Chef Andy, Galley 57 Restaurant in Green Bay. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.