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This is one of my favorite soups — it’s hearty, healthy, and delicious. Thankfully, this recipe is about using stuff from your larder, cabinets, or freezer, so it’s just right for the times. (Plus, kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.) Enjoy! —Chris Fuqua, former sous-chef at San Francisco’s legendary Zuni Café and husband of Cocofloss’s editorial director
I like to use smoked turkey tails or a ham hock in this recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, double up on the smoked bacon. I also like Rancho Gordo brand dried beans. They’re a little more expensive but seem to always cook perfectly. If you can’t get their Alubia Blanca beans, any old navy beans will work.
Also, a few words about stock vs. broth vs. bone broth: In a pinch, any will work. I often make my own stock, but if I don’t have time, I’ll get frozen stock from the grocery store. I like the Stock Options brand, despite the name. Bone broth isn’t stock, but it seems to be replacing stock in my store. I’m annoyed by it, but it can work. It’s richer than stock, so keep that in mind and consider cutting it with a little water. Unrefrigerated chicken broth usually has some sort of preservatives added, including salt and other things. Look for the one with the least sodium and other unpronounceable stuff.
This recipe can easily be converted into a soothing vegan soup by replacing the chicken broth with your favorite vegan one and skipping the other meat ingredients.
Making soup is always fun. You might even be inspired to sing “Beautiful Soup” from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll!
1 lb white beans
4 (or 8) slices of smoked uncured bacon, cut into lardons (short 1-inch strips) (see note above about quantity)
1 large onion, diced
Equal amount of carrots as onions, diced
Same for celery, diced
2 cups frozen kale, thawed
4 cloves of garlic, minced (approx. 2 tablespoons)
2 pinches of chile flakes (more if you want more of a kick)
4 cups warm chicken stock (see above for options)
Aromatic extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
1 smoked ham hock (or see above for other options)
Pour the dried beans into a bowl and check them out. Remove anything that’s not a bean — occasionally you might find a small stone or other detritus. Then rinse the beans with cold water and strain. At this point you can soak the beans if you like. This cuts the cooking time down, but isn’t strictly necessary. I often do this step in the morning and soak the beans for 2 to 4 hours, depending on when I plan to eat.
Put a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Once crispy, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel.
Add the aromatics (onion, carrot, and celery) to the hot bacon grease. Drop the heat a little bit. Add the chile flakes. Do not add salt because it will toughen the bean skins unpleasantly. Let the vegetables soften for a bit (5 to 10 minutes).
Once the aromatics have softened, add the beans, stock, and ham hock. Bring to a light boil, then drop heat to a simmer. Cook until beans are done (30 to 50 minutes).
Once the beans are done, pull out the ham hock, pick the meat off the bones, and add the meat back. Same if using turkey tails. If using extra bacon, add half of it back into the soup.
Add the kale and stir.
Taste for seasoning.
Serve with the remaining bacon chopped and sprinkled on top. Add a drizzle of aromatic olive oil as well if you like!
Follow your nourishing meal with a self-care treat: Soothing Cocofloss will whoosh away cavity-causing plaque and debris and leave your smile satisfyingly clean.