Well, I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas! I definitely did! My Christmas day was filled with fun, family and good food. I got some pretty sweet presents – one of my favorites being a Canon Digital Rebel XS camera from my amazingly generous boyfriend, so this blog will definitely be updated much more frequently from now on!
Luckily for me, Christmas break means lots of opportunities to cook for and with my parents. My dad (or daddy-o, as I call him) is a pretty fantastic cook. A messy, crazy and imaginative cook. I, at the very least, get the “messy” cooking gene from him. My mom and I have a standing deal that in return for cooking her and my dad dinner while I’m home from school, she’ll go along behind me and clean up all the messes I make while cooking. I think she definitely got the short end of that deal!
When my dad and I cook together, the old saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” definitely describes us. We rarely agree on cooking methods – case in point: I like to caramelize onions for a soup, and then leave them in while I make the roux, while he likes to take the onions completely out and mix them back in right before serving. So needless to say, there’s always lots of lighthearted bickering, and on bad days, some flour might even get thrown. But it’s always a good time.
Dad is also really good at improvising and making things up on the spot. I’m not quite up to his level on that yet – some of my improvised dishes come out pretty awesome, and some send me either to my car to go to Jimmy John’s (because my house happens to be about 3 feet over their delivery cutoff line — lame!) , or to my freezer for the standby Morningstar corn dog (they’re amazing! You can’t even tell there’s fake meat in them!). This is one soup that he threw together one day, and the recipe always changes slightly, depending on what we have on hand on any particular day and how we’re feeling. So this recipe isn’t going to be very precise…but really, it’s pretty hard to mess this up. Feel free to substitute ingredients as you see fit. Don’t have enough milk? Use whatever milk you have, and use chicken broth, or even water, for the rest. Don’t like white beans? Substitute some other bean, or leave them out completely. Does the thought of four tablespoons of bacon grease send you into a calorie coma? Use butter or vegetable oil (I wouldn’t use olive oil in this, though).
And before I forget, here’s a shameless plug for my dad: He’s a lawyer (and a pretty fantastic one, at that!), so if you live in Michigan and are looking for legal representation, check out his website!
Daddy-o’s Ham, Potato and White Bean Soup
6 strips bacon
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. onion, roughly chopped
4-6 small yellow potatoes
4 tbsp. bacon grease (from cooked bacon)
4 tbsp. flour
8 c. milk (we used a mixture of 2% and half-and-half, and a little bit of skim)
2 cans Great Northern beans (or any other canned white beans)
2 c. chopped ham (we used leftover ham from Christmas dinner)
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
sliced green onions, crumbled bacon and extra cheese, for garnishing
1) Peel potatoes, if you are so inclined. Slice each in half, then boil until fork tender, but not completely cooked through. Once cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
2) Cook bacon slices until crispy, reserving 4 tbsp. of bacon grease. Set bacon slices aside.
3) Melt butter in large stock pot. Add onion, and saute about 10 minutes, or until nicely caramelized, but not burnt. Remove from pot and set aside.
4) Add reserved bacon grease to the pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the flour to form a roux. (Note: a roux is basically just a paste of some sort of fat and flour, which will thicken the soup once liquid is added)
5) Stir the roux for 1-2 minutes, then add the milk, stirring constantly until thickened and working out any clumps that may form.
6) Stir in the onions, ham, beans, potatoes and cheese until everything is incorporated and warmed through.
7) Turn the soup down to medium-low, and let it sit while you chop the bacon and green onions for topping. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy!