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Cajun Ham and 15-Bean Soup with Mushrooms and Bok Choy
I so love good soups. And the good ones taste even better the next day. The trick is to have a wonderful broth, as my friend Tiffany wrote recently in some cooking tips with broth. She also suggested carmelizing the vegetables (tenderizing by frying in butter). This tip, along with getting the rich broth, adding the seasonings just right, and keeping the mushrooms just "under" done, makes such a luscious, scrumptious meal. I tried adding Bok Choy and really loved it. The white stalks are a lot like celery, while the green leaves just add a unique texture, hearty taste, and a stunning color contrast to the orange in the carrots. The spicy cajun seasoning gives this soup just the snap it needs to give happy sighs to all around. Have fun!
12 cups of ham hock stock (boil ham bone several hours with a whole onion and any leftover veggies, a tsp. of salt and pepper each) You can also use chicken or beef stock.
1/2 bag of fifteen-bean mix (or you could go for a combo of kidney beans and northern white beans...a pretty color combo)
2 c. chopped carrots
3 c. fresh sliced mushrooms
3 T. butter
5 T. minced garlic
1 large onion, diced
salt and pepper
2-3 c. chopped ham
Cajun seasoning to taste (if you would like to make your own, here is a link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/simple-cajun-seasoning/ )
3 cups chopped bok choy
green onion and oyster crackers to garnish
Fill a four-quart pan with 3/4 water. Bring beans and water to a boil, turn off heat, let sit for an hour. Drain water and rinse beans. Refill with 3/4 water again and simmer two hours. For this second simmering, add the ham bone, if you're done with it, an extra onion if you have one, and some salt and pepper. We're trying to flavor the beans a bit. The beans may soak in a lot of the water. If there is a lot of water left in there, drain some but leave maybe an inch covering the beans. Take out the ham bone and the onion. The key is cooking the beans until they are a little over done. The falling apart of some of the beans makes the broth thicken over time.
Fry the veggies in the butter until everything is just under soft. I haven't mastered this, but if you can get them just "under" being done it adds a wonderful fresh taste. Add in the diced ham for 3-4 minutes toward the end (if it hasn't been pre-cooked, you'll need to cook it longer possibly. Make sure it is cooked through. Add all the veggies into the beans. Season with salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning, to taste.
Add the ham stock, bring all to a light simmer, and turn off heat. You can eat anytime, but it becomes more brothy and thick after a few hours. Garnish with sliced green onion over the top or oyster crackers.