This simple soup is a perfect medium for flavorful bellota ham, which comes from the Iberian black-footed pig.
Bellota ham, which is expensive, can be ordered through LaTienda.com and is sometimes carried by Wagshal's Market in Northwest Washington (202-363-0777).
Servings: 4 - 5
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sprig thyme, plus more to taste
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
- 2 to 4 medium cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise, then crushed with a knife, or more to taste
- 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (3/4 to 1 cup), optional)
- 3 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed (preferably no-salt-added)
- 4 ounces bellota ham scraps (may substitute 1 bone from a cured ham or 4 ounces of salt pork or 1 cube Knorr veal bouillon; see headnote)
- 3 cups water, or more as needed (may substitute 1 cup water and 1 cup milk plus more as needed)
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry or sherry vinegar
- 3 slices stale/dry country bread or ciabatta
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated Manchego or aged pecorino cheese
- 4 ounces sliced bellota ham, cut into small pieces, for garnish (may substitute other air-cured Spanish ham; see headnote)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thyme sprig, onion, garlic to taste and the green bell pepper, if using. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and onion are golden and have softened.
Add the beans; the ham scraps or bone, salt pork or veal bouillon cube; and the water. The liquid should barely cover the beans. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally; add water as needed.
Add the sherry or sherry vinegar; the latter will lend a slightly more acidic bite. Tear the bread into small pieces and add to the soup, making sure they are completely moistened. Discard the thyme sprig. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula so that some of the beans and garlic are crushed and the soup has a slightly creamy consistency (or use an immersion blender in spots, being careful not to process much of the ham scraps, if using).
Add the cheese to taste and mix well. Taste and season with salt, more garlic and/or chopped thyme leaves as needed. Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with equal portions of the ham; serve warm.
From Gastronomer Andreas Viestad.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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