Late Winter Soup (With Italian sausage, prosciutto, kale, and white bean)



[Ed: This just in! An abbreviated, recipe-ized adaptation of last week’s Late Winter Soup novella. Thanks, Jeanelle!]

From Jeanelle Hayner

Because of the high volume of pork products in this soup, I felt compelled to avoid chicken stock for fear it would make the soup too, well, chicken-y.  I do imagine, though, if you didn’t want to make this particular stock, that you could cobble something together using the cooking water from the beans, a bit of whatever stock you might have lying around, and water.  This was the first time making this soup, and I didn’t use a recipe, so there’s lots of room for improvisation/tinkering.

Yield: 1 enormous pot. 

For the prosciutto stock:

1 lb prosciutto end(s) (and/or a prosciutto or ham bone if you can find one)
1 onion, halved
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
handful of fresh parsley
1 T black peppercorns

If you’re working with ends, it’s a good idea to render a good bit of the fat off of it before plopping it into a stockpot.  I cooked the end, the onion, and the garlic in a pan on low heat for a while — until the meat was falling apart a bit and the garlic was golden and very soft.  **Save the drippings from this.  You might decide to flavor the soup with some of it later.

If you’re using bones (or if you’ve worked your ends down), put everything into a large pot and cover with water by an inch or two.  Simmer forever, or for however much time you have.  The main thing is that you need to end up with stock that tastes like stock and not “hot ham water.”

For the rest of the soup:

1 lb Italian sausage, uncooked, in casing
1/2 lb prosciutto, thinly sliced, then roughly chopped into small pieces (quantity is less important here– you’ve already got prosciutto stock, for crying out loud– you just want enough to highlight the background flavor of the soup)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 bunch lacinato kale, rinsed, de-ribbed, and very roughly chopped
2 heads garlic, roasted and mashed into a paste (use a bit of olive oil and salt to do this, if you like)
about 3 cups cooked white beans.  depends on how thick and bean-y you like your soup.  also, canned is okay, but if you cook them yourself you’ve got the advantage of using that tasty, tasty bean-water in the soup if you need it.
1 parmesan heel
olive oil
salt & pepper
(special equipment: immersion blender)

In a large pot (likely that pot you used for the stock), combine the stock, white beans, and roasted garlic paste, and give the whole thing a good whir with the immersion blender.  The idea here is to leave about half the beans intact, and smithereen the other half to make a nice, thick, soup base.  Turn heat to medium and add the parmesan heel; simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over a medium flame.  using the sausage casing like you might use a pastry bag (ew, I know, but this is kind of handy), squeeze the sausage out into small meatball-sized pieces.  When the sausage is just brown, but not cooked all the way through, add the onion and garlic.  Cook until the onions are quite soft; about 10 minutes.  (Lower the heat if need be so that the garlic doesn’t burn.)  Add the prosciutto and thyme, and when the prosciutto has shriveled nicely and gets a little brown on it, turn off the heat.

Remove the parmesan heel from the stock, then add the contents of the saute pan to the pot.  Let simmer together for just a few minutes, then taste for seasoning.  Add salt & pepper as needed, as well as any of the pan drippings you might have saved from earlier.  Add kale– it’ll wilt and cook relatively quickly in the hot soup.  Once the kale is done (just taste a piece of it), so are you.  Enjoy!

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