Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Better White Bean Soup

It's been a busy couple of days, with more busy days to follow. Watching Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast at the D-Lounge on Union Square on Friday night, followed by a great game of Roller Derby on Saturday night. Even tho the Bronx trounced Manhattan score-wise (which I predicted, but also I'm not sure anything shy of a brick wall can stop Bonnie Thunder) it was a really good match.

As you may have noticed (or at least picked up on from reading here) NYC this Spring has been insane. Warm weather crept in as usual, and then we kept flipping between 85-90º weather and 60's and rain. (I for one prefer any weather below 84º be it rain or shine.) This week we actually had somewhat normal June weather (70's) which was a nice break from the insanity, and along those lines,  today dropped to a humid 72º with fairly steady rain, and it put me in the mood for a nice bowl of soup.

I have posted about a simple white bean soup before, but this time I stepped it up a notch or two, and it was really delicious. Warm and soothing without being heavy. I picked this soup because I had all the ingredients on hand already, except for the swiss chard. And yes, I actually went out in the rain (a whopping 2 blocks) to buy the greens so I could make this, because I just did not think that defrosting a box of frozen spinach would be the same in this soup.

2 cans of cannellini beans, puréed (optional)
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 to 1 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of pancetta cubetti/small dice (use as much as you'd like tho)
1 bunch green swiss chard, or hearty dark green of choice
olive oil
1 TBSP butter
3-4 cups chicken stock
Pecorino Romano, grated

I started out by browning the pancetta in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven/stock pot. Once it has browned up and rendered most of its fat, I remove it from the pan and set it aside for later. (I absolutely used more than you see in this photo... I did two batches when I realized my mistake.)

To the oil and rendered fat I add the diced shallot and sauté that until softened, just a few minutes. Then I add the garlic and the butter and cook that for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant but not yet browning.
  (You can omit, or add another TBSP of butter when making this, depending on how rich you want the final flavor of the soup to be. I can almost always taste when there is butter in a broth-based soup, since I don't cook with it all that often.)
To that I add between 1/2 and a whole cup of white wine, which picks up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, but then let that reduce for about five minutes so some of the alcohol burns off and the flavor intensifies.

I find so many store-bought chicken stocks to be a bit thin in flavor, so I like the depth the wine adds, especially since I'm not using any fresh herbs in this soup. As with all recipes, you're in your own kitchen and you can add or omit anything you wish.

At this point I added the puréed beans to the pot. (It's just a personal thing for me. I dislike biting into whole beans in soups.) Season with salt and pepper to taste (lightly, remembering the salt from the pancetta) and add as much chicken stock as you like to make your soup however thick or thin you like. I used about 3 1/2 cups.

Once that has come up to a simmer, I add the chopped swiss chard and add the pancetta back into the pot as well. I also throw about half a cup of grated pecorino romano into the pot at this point, and let the whole thing simmer and meld on low for another half an hour or so.

A note on the swiss chard: if you have never used it before, you want to gently pull the greens away from the center vein in each leaf. Discard the stems/veins and chop the greens into reasonably sized pieces.
Special Note: Make sure that when you are gathering these large leaves together and chopping through them that you can see ALL FIVE FINGERS before you bring your knife down. In the attempt to control the giant pile of leaves, it would be only too easy to cover your thumb and bring your knife right down on it. (This note is not from experience, but the thought flashed through my mind as I was chopping and made me shudder.)
It's too bad the greens change from their vibrant color to a muddy green, but that's just the way of cooked greens.

When serving this up, I have two suggestions for garnish. One is simply more grated pecorino romano cheese, as it is a perfect topping for so many things, and this soup is no exception.
The other item that I found delicious for finishing this soup was Smoked Chipotle Sea Salt from Secret Stash Salts. It added a really nice kick and extra dimension. But also a reason to make sure you do not over-salt while cooking the soup, what with using pancetta and a salty cheese.

As I said, very soothing on a rainy afternoon/night, and also a mostly healthy meal full of greens, fiber, and protein. All the things a Gotham Girl needs to get by. That, and a vicious Booty Block/Pop Tart move.

(It's true, I can only aspire to the awesomeness that is Suzy Hotrod, Beyonslay, and the other amazing athletes that are true Gotham Girls Roller Derby skaters. If you ever have the chance, try to catch one of their bouts at Hunter College on the UES. You won't regret it. Even tho the hubs and I miss when the bouts were back in the Bronx and they served cheesy nachos... but only the hubs misses the nachos.)


Joe Ambrosino said...

Nicely done even though the cheap Italian grandma in me chafes at you throwing out the swiss chard stems. (I would chop them and cook them before I add the leaves.) Anyway,bean soup is great. I like to cook up a big pot from dry beans and use it for soup, pasta fagiole, etc.
I was going to link to a recipe on my blog, but that feels a little "spamy" to me.

RocknRollGourmet said...

Well now I know to chop and cook the stems next time. I was only doing what I had observed elsewhere in the treatment of that kind of green.

And Joe, I give you absolute permission to link to any recipe you'd like, especially since you keep coming back to check on this little grasshopper ;)

Joe Ambrosino said...

Well ok, since this is actually someone else's recipe, this is the "from scratch" directions for bean soup i use.

Jason S. said...

That sounds dee-lish!