Here is a famous and delicious soup recipe that’s easy to make, although it does take some time. I don’t believe you want to waste your time or ingredients on the bland, original Senate version unless, like some of legislators, you’re more concerned with being able to say you passed something than achieving a tasteful result. Frommer’s travel guide says, “The Senate Bean Soup may be famous, but it’s tasteless goo.” I assure you this enhanced recipe will delight even the most critical pundit, and those who resist for purely political reasons will, no doubt, require second servings in formulating their talking points.
This version is based on a Culinary Institute of America recipe, further adapted to stimulate lively debate among Diner patrons. It’s rich with navy bean and pork flavor plus complexity from generous amounts of carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Seasonings are minimal, as they should be for this type of soup– perhaps an extra pinch or two of basil or parsley is nice. I gleaned a minuscule amount of lean pork from the cooked ham hocks to add back to the soup. Consider adding a cup of diced ham after the puree. This recipe yields about eight quarts, just right for a twelve quart stockpot. A skillet of cornbread makes an ideal complement.
- 2 lbs dry navy beans
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 8 carrots, finely diced
- 8 celery stalks, finely diced
- 4 garlic clove, finely minced
- 2 med onion, finely diced
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 4 smoked ham hocks
- 5 yellow potatoes, peeled, diced
- Sachet: 10 peppercorns, 5 whole cloves (in tea ball or cheesecloth bag)
- Salt to taste (add 1 tbsp with the beans, adjust later)
- White pepper to taste
- Tabasco sauce, to taste (a good place to express conservative leanings)
Sort and rinse the beans. Place in pot and cover by 3 inches of water and bring to rolling boil for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Drain, rinse in cold water. Prepare the diced vegetables and mince the garlic while beans are soaking. Heat olive oil in the stockpot (12 qt.) and cook vegetables on medium heat until the garlic smells sweet and the onions are golden.
Add beans, broth and ham hocks to stockpot. Add enough water or additional broth to cover by an inch. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour (90 minutes is probably better). Add diced potato and sachet containing peppercorns and cloves. Continue cooking over low heat for about 30 minutes more, or until beans and potatoes are cooked well.
Remove ham hocks, separate lean meat from the bone and dice. Reserve as a garnish or return to pot after the puree. Puree about half a blender of the soup and return this to the pot, and repeat if necessary to achieve desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and white pepper and Tabasco. Serve in warm bowls with diced ham hocks as garnish, if not returned to soup.