Ham hock, tortellini, and white bean soup

From Duncan Bayne (via Martha Bayne)

Serves 12

[Ed: My father made and served soup for the homeless out of the kitchen at the Episcopal cathedral in Seattle for many years, so this project has, unsurprisingly, tickled his soup bone. He sent along two recipes last week, one for a chicken-and-cabbage soup he described as another “back of the refrigerator” medley, which I may well make later on this winter, and one for this hearty, oh-so-hammy almost-stew. I reprint it here, only lightly edited, with exciting “process” photos and a lot of probably confusing formatting. Key ingredients are boldfaced; my own notes are [italed] in brackets.]


Scion, etc., etc.

I have just reaffirmed my unrepentant adoration of ham boiled off the bone–there is nothing sweeter on this earth. So….

3 to 4 pounds of smoked ham hock (or knuckle or whatever else it’s called in your neck of the woods)
4 quarts of water

Let it slowly boil for at least 3 hours. The meat will fall off the bone and the stock will emit a luxurious aroma. You should end up with something like 10 cups of stock (having started with 16 of water).

[I let my stock cook a little too long, and wound up with more like 8 cups; it looked like this:]

Let the stock congeal overnight [at which point it will look like THIS:]

[I know. Blugh.]

Then defat it before you use it.

[Which will leave you with a very appetizing pint or so of ham fat, of which I will spare you the photo.]

Chop up and saute:

1 Mayan sweet onion (or Walla Walla or that place in Georgia … ah, yes, Vidalia) (will be about 2 cups)

[“You can certainly use regular onions,” he notes in a later missive. “I’ve just gotten used to sweet onions and use them all the time. In fact, you may have noticed we had no regular onions in the house, except that red one you bought.”]

3/4 cup celery
2 carrots (the ones I used produced when chopped about a cup each)

After 10 minutes or so toss the saute into the soup stock and add:

15-ounce can of cannellini beans (drained)
15-ounce can of black beans (drained)

[At this point, if you are me, you also want to add about 2 cups of water, to dilute the VERY SALTY, over-reduced stock you have created. And, that reminds me, Brian Ferguson — who made the delicious hominy chicken soupsuggests adding a halved onion that has been charred over a gas burner, or in the broiler, to a ham stock as it’s cooking. He says this will cut the saltiness and give it a bit of depth. I have not tried, but if anyone does, please report back.]

Let cook for a while (how long is probably not important, but at least until the beans are cooked), then toss in a package of tortellini. (Your mother says you can forget the tortellini, but I like it as a substance in the soup. We used one which had a sweet Italian sausage filling, but one could just as well use a cheese filling).

[I used cheese tortellini, but probably added it too early. If you look at the photo up top you can see that it has sort of expanded and taken over the entire crock pot. In a perfect world I would have waited till I was reheating the soup at the Hideout to execute this step.]

Add a handful of chopped cabbage. (Yes, I know. I’m still using up a monster cabbage your mother came home with.)

[The followup email also notes that he used no salt or pepper, as it was plenty salty already, and “the proportions of vegetables are whatever turns you on.”]

Let it all cook for a few minutes then chow down. I don’t know how many it will feed but we each had two bowls full, and I put away in the icebox and freezer at least 10 cups, so I would venture that its good for six to eight if not more. [I say more.]

I hope this is what you wanted. As an aside I should tell you that after I had cooked the stock on Saturday, Mom and I couldn’t resist and we consumed the boiled ham on the spot (with a cracker or two), so I had to get some more on Sunday. I also got a small ham steak for dicing into the soup in case we didn’t have enough meat. Stick to the hock; the flavor differential is ginormous.

Chef Whathisname


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3 Responses to “Ham hock, tortellini, and white bean soup”

  1. Krista Says:

    This was so awesome. I could totally see your dad in the kitchen. A friend of mine has set aside and frozen a holiday hambone for me, so perhaps this will give it a fitting purpose.

  2. Martha Says:

    KP — let me know how it goes!

  3. Week three « Soup and Bread Says:

    […] So, I hope that the cooks send the recipes my way, so I can share them with you. So far this season we’ve had some serious hits in those crock pots, but the recipe-delivery part of the program is barely creaking along. I hate to nag, but, people, PLEASE SEND IN YOUR RECIPES. That’s the part that completes the circle. Plus, if you don’t, next year’s book is just going to be full of recipes from my father. […]

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