You may be thinking that a recipe for a thick, hearty soup is a bit odd considering that yesterday was the first day of spring. But this Spanish bean soup is not just any soup. Rather, it is a soup sent straight from the soup gods (if the soup gods took the form of my future mother-in-law).
As I was walking out the back door of a recent family gathering, Tina (my future MIL) forced two large Tupperwares into my hand. This happens often, and I never quite know what I'm going to find inside. I took a quick peek during the car ride home and didn't particulary like what I saw. It wasn't until a couple of days later that my fiancé stumbled upon the containers buried deep in the refrigerator. "Oh my gosh, is this Tina's Spanish bean soup? This stuff is AWESOME!" His glee was frightening.
I remained skeptical until I hesitantly tried my first bite, upon which heaven's gates flew open — it was freaking delicious! Like can't-put-it-down-lick-the-bottom-of-the-bowl delicious. I mentioned to Tina at our next gathering how much I adored it, and she, being the kind and giving woman that she is, immediately pulled out a tattered old cookbook called Clarita's Cocina and went straight to the splattered recipe.
"Spanish Bean Soup is an all-time favorite," she exclaimed, "and this is the only recipe worth knowing." And while I haven't tasted any other Spanish Bean Soup recipes to go off of, I am still quite sure she is right.
Tina gets leftover hambones from a local HoneyBaked Ham outpost, which I think is a genius idea considering most folks don't have a hambone laying around. (I know I don't.) Give your grocery store a call before you go; not all the stores carry them. You can substitute a smoked ham hock if you can't get a hambone.
Also, Saffron is traditional to Spanish bean soup, however I did see a few recipes that called for sazón, a seasoning blend, instead.
1 pound dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 8 ounces good-quality bacon or salt pork, chopped 1 (6-8 ounce) leftover hambone or smoked ham hock 8 ounces beef stew bones 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1 small onion, chopped 1 ripe tomato, chopped 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped 2-3 cloves garlic, minced 1 bay leaf Chicken stock or water, to cover (or mix of both) Pinch of saffron threads 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed Kosher salt and pepper
Wash garbanzo beans in cold water, discarding any beans with visible inperfections. Cover with 3 inches of salted water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly and set aside.
In a large Dutch oven, combine the bacon, hambone, beef bones, onion, tomato, green pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover with two inches of chicken stock (or water) and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam as needed. Cover and lower heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook for 30 minutes, then add the reserved beans. Bring to a boil again, cover, and return to a simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir in the saffron and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the beans are tender but not overcooked. Remove the ham and beef bones, shredding and returning any meat left on the bones. (Tina scrapes out the marrow from the beef bones, as well. She said it melts in the soup like butter!)
Add the potatoes and season with salt. Cover and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, another 30 minutes. Season to taste.