U.S. Senate Bean Soup

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This is one of my favourite cold weather soups – there are a few days left of winter and our nights are still cold so you have time to make some.  This recipe is from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews by Bernard Clayton, Jr. The recipe served in the Senate today does not include mashed potatoes, but does include a braised onion.
It is an easy recipe to follow.  I only modified it by using a baked potato and lightly mashing it, getting the meatiest  ham hock I could find, shredding the ham from the bone once it was cooked and adding carrots and extra celery when the soup was finished both for colour and crunch.  It makes a good amount and freezes well.  It is always such a delight when you open the freezer to scout something for lunch and you find this soup.  Enjoy!

U.S. Senate Bean Soup
Serves 6 to 8

The U.S. Senate has come to stand for many things in this Republic.  One is its bean soup.  There is also a bean soup served in the House of Representatives but it lacks both the prestige and taste of that of the Upper House.  Between the two, however, cooks ladle out gallons of 8-oounce servings each day in the 11 dining rooms on the Hill.

I had my first bowl of Senate bean soup in 1940 as the guest of Senator Charles M. McNary of Oregon.  I was a brand-new Life Magazine correspondent in the Capital and he was then the running mate of Republican Presidential hopeful Wendell Willkie.  I don’t recall what  we talked about but I have never forgotten the soup.

Senate bean soup can be served on any occasion that warrants a hot, steamy, filling and thick soup such as an Election Eve party or a modest precinct gathering.

1 pound dried white beans, Great Northern or navy
water to soak

1 meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks
3 quarts water, to cook
3 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup cooked mashed potatoes, or 1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste, if desired
snippets of parsley or chives to garnish

Soak beans overnight.
Drain and place them with the ham in a large (5 quart) soup kettle. Add 3 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours. Skim if necessary.

In the meantime chop the onions, garlic, celery and parsley,  When the beans and meat have cooked 2 hours, add the chopped vegetables and the potato to the pot.
Simmer for 1 hour longer or until the beans are tender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remove the bones and meat from the soup.  Dice the meat into 1/2 inch pieces and return to the pot.  Discard the bones.  Reheat to serve

This is a hearty, robust dish and so it should have hearty, robust service – from the pot at the tale, and ladled into heated soup bowls.  Garnish with snippets of parsley or chives.

ALTERNATIVE: The House version: Only beans, ham hock and seasoning.  The beans are bruised with a spoon or ladle to  barely cloud the soup before serving

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