March is here! Spring is on its way—hurray!! An awful lot of the country (including my neck of the woods) has been bombarded with freezing temps, snow and ice. I hope you all are surviving the unusually cold temps. Take heart—it can’t last forever! Spring WILL come.
But in the meantime, as you barrel through the last of the cold weather, here’s a showstopper of a soup to keep you cozy until the air is warm and the breezes are flowing once again.
It’s got BACON in it, folks! Lots of yummy, yummy bacon.
A lot of people are afraid of bacon because it’s got fat in it. We need to stop being afraid of fat. Fat is actually something our bodies need. And really, if you read a bacon label, it doesn’t have that much fat in it anyway. It does have saturated fat, but our bodies do need some saturated fat in order to thrive. Babies and children especially need saturated fat in their diet. Would I say eat bacon every day? Well, no, I wouldn’t. But there are many foods that in moderation can support a healthy diet.
Everything in moderation. That’s what I regularly return to.
So, yes, bacon in moderation too—hurray! It really helps if you can find a good quality bacon. Most grocery store bacon will have a lot of preservatives in it, so look for preservative-free brands. Since bacon contains fat and a lot of toxins (like pesticide residues) reside heavily in fat, it’s a good idea to look around your area and see if you can find a local farm that raises pigs in a quality, sustainable way. Fresh, high quality bacon can’t be beat! And like purchasing a quarter cow, you can often purchase a half or whole hog direct from a local farmer and get a good deal. Some grocery stores will offer pastured pork or pork fed without antibiotics or GMOs. Better choices for sure, if you have those options available to you.
You’ll notice in this recipe I note “large” a lot—a large onion, large celery ribs, large garlic cloves and a large carrot. I’m not trying to be ornery. It’s just that beans are pretty bland on their own and receive their flavor from what is added to them. In this recipe it’s really the veggies and bacon that give the soup its delicious flavor. So if you’re unsure, or you’ve got small carrots for instance, err on the side of more rather than less—go for two small carrots. Better to have more flavor than an under-flavored, bland bean soup!
Just one more note: The recipe calls for minced parsley as a garnish. In the photo I used pea shoots, which also work well. But really, you could opt for another herb like thyme or a few baby spinach leaves. The important thing is to add a bit of green to freshen the soup. The green provides a nice contrast of flavor and color.
Garlicky White Bean Soup with Bacon
- 1 lb. dry white beans, pre-cooked (cannellini or Great Northern are best, though navy beans will work)
- 1/2 lb. bacon
- 1 large onion
- 3 large ribs of celery
- 1 large carrot
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 2–4 cups chicken broth or stock
- optional: 1/4 cup white wine
- salt & pepper, to taste
- minced parsley
Cook beans in advance and drain. (You can even cook them 1–2 days in advance and store them in the fridge.)
Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery and carrot. Set veggies aside.
Dice the bacon and add to a heavy bottomed soup pot and render the fat over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon well, stirring occasionally until the bacon is crispy and dark and the fat is rendered. The bottom of your pot should be good and brown. If desired, remove a small portion of the cooked bacon to use as a garnish. Add all the veggies and stir occasionally as they cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
The juices from the veggies may be enough to deglaze your pot (remove the browned bits on the bottom of your pot), but if not, now is the time to add the white wine if you’re going to. Give it all a little stir as the wine deglazes the rest of the pot. Allow the wine to reduce and sizzle out, stirring occasionally. (Shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.)
Now add 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot. (If you didn’t add the wine and your pot still needs to be deglazed, just stir gently with a wooden spoon after adding the broth to loosen the browned bits and finish deglazing. Once the broth has heated up, reduce the heat to low and simmer the broth and veggies for about 10 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.
Remove pot from heat. Add 1/2 of the beans to the soup pot. Use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup. The goal is to have a thick, creamy soup base filled with chunks of bacon, veggies and beans. Puree a bit, give a good stir, puree a bit more, give a good stir. Err on the side of less pureed so you don’t overdo it and puree too much. Once about half of the soup is pureed, in a small bowl or immersion blender cup add 1 cup of beans to 1 cup of chicken broth and puree. Add this puree to the soup and stir in well. If the consistency is to your liking, stop here. If it’s not creamy enough, puree another 1/2 cup of beans with 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir into the soup. I ended up using nearly all of the beans for this soup. Reserve any remaining beans for another use. Salt and pepper the soup to taste.
Serve soup immediately, topped with reserved bacon and minced parsley (or other green like baby spinach leaves, pea shoots, minced fresh thyme or chives).