“Although, for the sake of practicality, alternatives are given for homemade meat broth, the hope here is that you ignore them, relying instead on the supply of good frozen broth that you try always to have on hand.”
Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Even though it stresses me out a little bit, I have to say I love that quote. Many times it has been running through my head and gotten me off the couch and into the kitchen with a few leftover chicken carcasses, a couple of pounds of chicken wings and a pile of onion, carrot, celery and parsley stems. Ms. Hazan seems to have little patience for slackers. Homemade chicken stock is not hard to make anyway and as I’ve said before, life is too short to rely on boxed chicken stock. Even the organic kind is really a lab concoction and shouldn’t be used in any soup where the broth is the star. What you need for this soup is homemade stock.
Chicken broth is so popular in my house that every year when I ask my 9 year old what he wants for his birthday he has a quick single word answer: “Broth.” Instead I make this soup which is broth-y but not quite as uncelebratory as a plain bowl of chicken broth. I guess some people might say a simple bowl of white beans, chicken broth, parsley and garlic isn’t party food at all. If you got off the couch and started making your own broth, I think you might be singing a different tune.
Anyway, this post is not about broth because I already covered it months ago. This post is about White Bean Soup, which is a lot easier than the kale and fennel version I also love. If my kids beg me to make anything, they beg for “white bean soup – with extra broth! Can you make it with extra broth please?!” and I make it if and only if we have chicken broth in the freezer. Last night I used my last 3 bags which Martin had to wrench off the freezer floor – I guess I haven’t made broth since early spring. Clearly I’m going to have to get off the couch and dust off my stock pot.
White Bean Soup with Croutons – serves 4 generously
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chopped garlic, about 1 fat clove
- 2 cups dried cannellini beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 black peppercorns
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- Sea salt and ground pepper
- 6 cups homemade chicken broth
- 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- Croutons for garnish – see below
- green extra virgin olive oil and grated parmesan also for garnish
- The night before you want to make the soup, put the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with 2-3 inches of water.
- In the morning, drain the beans and put them in a large pot covered with 2 inches of water. Add the bay leaves, the peppercorns (in a tea ball if you have one – it makes it a lot easier to fish them out), and the 2 crushed garlic cloves. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn it down quickly to maintain a gentle simmer. Leave the pot partially covered. Simmer for 45 minutes and add salt to taste. I would add about 1 teaspoon. When the beans are tender, turn off the stove and leave them until you are ready to make the soup. This could be a lot later in the day – the beans will be fine just sitting there.
- Heat 1/2 c. olive oil in a large heavy soup pot. (I use a 7 qt. Le Creuset) Add the chopped garlic and over medium heat, cook the garlic until it is pale gold.
- Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Grind in some pepper and a pinch of salt, then stir and cover. Turn down the heat and wait 5 minutes.
- Add the 6 cups of stock and turn up the heat until the soup in simmering. Simmer for 5-6 minutes and add the parsley. Stir and serve hot with olive oil, grated parmesan and the croutons floating on top.
- 1 baguette
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- In a 10″ or larger heavy skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.
- As the butter melts, slice 12 thin slices from the baguette.
- When the butter is no longer actively foaming, add the sliced baguette in one layer to the pan. Check the bottom of the bread after one minute (it’s so sad if the bread burns!) but it will probably take 2-3 minutes total until the bottom is deeply golden and crisp.
- Flip the bread and toast the other side, equally carefully.