Cold, rainy, gusty, gray and brooding – some of my favorite words when it comes to weather. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a sun baby. I love the sunshiney goodness of Southern California – but it’s not a rare thing.
This weather is rare however, and I just soak it up when it’s here. Love it.
When we have a nice fat rain spell, I am constantly trying to think of what kind of comfort food will fit the day. Soup is prime rainy day fodder. If I have some chicken, turkey or ham bones in the freezer, soup is bubbling away cheerfully on the stove the minute the first raindrop plops fatly on my forehead. Chili and various one-dish meals are also good – pot pie, chicken and rice, macaroni and cheese with delicious toasty-buttery-crumb topping….comfort food.
Tonite it’s hambeans. What are hambeans? So glad you asked.
HAMBONE (with plenty of meat still on it) and BEANS. Boiled up with delicious onion-garlic-herbs-and-tomato added in. Don’t worry, the tomatoes are a backstory – it’s not about the tomatoes, they just give the broth some acid and tart flavor. What you taste is BEANS and HAM. *smack smack* <—– lips smacking. If you’re really picky about tomatoes, you can do one of two things: used pureed tomatoes so you won’t notice them, or use whole stewed, so you can pick them out at the end.
Also, if you’re really picky about tomatoes, I feel pity for you. Pity pity pity. Tomatoes are GOOD. GOOoooooood. MMMMmmmmmmmmm.
Anyway. Here’s how you do it:
Hambone – this is the remainder of your holiday bone-in ham that you put in the freezer after carving most of the meat off. I always leave enough meat on the bone for either beans or pea soup.
One package/bag of dry beans – I usually do it with either Great Northern white beans or a 16 bean soup combo. Discard that nasty little “flavor” packet. Ew. Do not used precooked/canned beans. This recipe is for dry beans. You can do a super quick version of this with cooked beans – but this is not that. Neener neener.
In a small stock pot, put your (rinsed and de-rocked*) beans in with a bunch of water. Bring it to a boil – do not add anything else. Nothing but water and beans. Trust me. Once they come to a boil, let ’em bubble for about 5-10 minutes then turn them off and leave them covered for an hour.
*bagged beans can often have rocks in them – you will really hate it when you bite into a rock. It’s no fun at all.
Meanwhile, in another stock pot, put your hambone in some water to boil up. Let this bubble and trouble while the beans soak in their hot bath. Just don’t worry about it. Let it gurgle away.
When the beans have soaked for an hour, drain them. You want to discard this beany-bathwater. Unless you need to be gas powered for that mid-morning meeting tomorrow. Or maybe you have a co-worker you’d like to crop-dust. Hey, I’m not judging. Full steam ahead! But! If you’d like to cut back on the methane production a bit because you’re all fancy and don’t have bodily functions, just drain them into a colander right in the sink. You’ll only poot along at half power that way.
Where were we? O yeah!
Pull out your boiled hambone and shred all the meat off it back into the hammy-bathwater – THIS water you want to keep. Do not discard the hammyjuice. It’s the good stuff, man. Give the bone to the nearest dog and turn your attention back to your beans. Dump those beans into the hammyjuice with the shredded ham. Stick your blistered ham-shredding hands into an ice bath. I mean, you could boil the ham ahead and shred it when it’s cool, but seriously, that is so unstudly.
Let this boil for about 45 minutes.
Please take my word for it – do not add any acids, vegetables or spices until all the above has been done. There’s good science for the whys, just trust me.
NOW! Grab your:
– can of tomatoes (16 oz. is enough, but I often double this because we like tomato), UNLESS it’s tomato season – then I use as many fresh tomatoes as I think I can get away with,
– dice an onion (yellow is best, but I’ve also used shallots, and I’ve done combos of onion & leek as well – it’s all good),
– rough chop 3-6 cloves of garlic (everyone has their preference on garlic),
– chop some celery and dump it all in there.
Add salt & pepper. And 1-2 bay leaves. And a bit of chicken stock. You can use boullion or any chicken stock reduction here that you prefer, but if not using stock you need to add some more water (or beer, whatever) so that this can continue to boil away without getting too sludgy. But not too much liquid. Use your judgment, it’s better to add a little at a time until it seems right than to add too much and have watery beans. At this point, you can toss in some sliced kielbasa as well. I know I do. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAT.
Let it bubble bubble bubble, for half an hour.
Now – while that begins to all bubble up, add in a bouquet garnis of: thyme, savory, rosemary, and the bay leaves if you don’t want ’em floating around. Tie them up and float them, put them in a piece of cheesecloth, tie them to a wooden spoon and dangle them – I don’t care – but let em bubble away with everything else.
Once everything has been bubbling for an additional 20 minutes or so give it a little taste – adjust salt & pepper as needed. At this point, you can decide if you need more acid (a squeeze of lemon, a touch of ACV, red wine vinegar, the rest of the can of tomatoes you were too chicken to dump in, whatever you prefer) as well.
Let it bubble until the beans are tender and the broth is thick and cozily oozing about in the pot. <—you’ll know, don’t worry.
Then, eat the heck out of those hambeans. Make sure you burn the roof of your mouth because you’re so hungry for HAMBEANS that you have lost your damn mind and forgot to blow on your first spoonful. Otherwise you’re not doing it right.
This can be eaten over rice or fried/baked potatoes, if you desire carbs. Also, cornbread or fresh rolls, yum! I serve it with salad and cornbread. Also, put out toppings – Tapatio, shredded cheese, salsa, fresh chopped chives, anything you think you’d like on there.
Enjoy! And later – you’ll have your own naturally occurring spa when you take a bath. Hey – it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Happy holidays, fartypants.