Welcome to week 6 of the Five US Territories of New Recipe Tuesday. Wait, what? There are five populated territories in the US, so why do I have a week six? Well, I needed to round this whole thing out properly, and that means that I needed to include the little piece of land that makes up our nation’s capitol, Washington DC. How fitting that tonight is election night. A brutally contested election that culminates tonight in our nation’s decision on who will lead our nation for the next four years. I have my very strongly held personal opinion on all of this, but will refrain from getting political.
Washington DC was founded on July 16, 1790 and is unique in all cities in the United States because it was established by the Constitution to be our nation’s capital. President George Washington chose the exact location of the city along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, which was created when both Maryland and Virginia ceded land to found the new ‘district’. The city itself was designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, modeled after his home city of Paris.
On this Election Day, I find it interesting that the citizens of Washington DC actually lack full self-governance. Their representation in Congress is limited to a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and a shadow Senator. It was not until 1964 that residents of DC were allowed to vote in Presidential elections and the city was allowed to elect their own mayor in only 1973.
When searching for recipe for our nation’s capitol, the decision was one of the easiest of this whole journey. I decided on a very old tradition called Senate Soup, which is a dish that has been served in the Senate restaurant every day since 1903.
Now don’t get me wrong, although the recipe is simple, of course the story of this soup is complicated. There are various versions of the history, attributing its creation to either Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho or Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota. And along with its different story owners, there are different versions of the soup. The actual recipe that is used today in the Senate restaurant is super simple, using just beans, ham hock and onion. The ‘other’ version actually uses mashed potatoes, which seemed like a whole lot of extra carbs without a lot of flavor gain.
I opted for a modified version that stuck to the simple version, but added some aromatics to enhance the overall flavor of the dish. I have never cooked with a smoked ham hock before and it was definitely a huge flavor booster to the soup, but it lacked meat on the bones. I fortunately had a ham bone in my freezer that I pulled out and added to the process, which gave me all the meat the soup needed. I would modify the recipe to include a meaty ham bone to insure you get a solid bean to meat balance. The result is a really delicious, homey, hearty soup that fills you up and makes you feel good. The perfect way to end this historic day.
I give my version a solid A+ and will add it to my rotation for future dinners.
This will round out our tour of the entire United States, including our territories and our nation’s capitol. I guess I need to get out my passport and decide where we are going next. Stay tuned! Thanks for stopping by and see you next week in…?
- 1 pound dried navy beans
- 1 smoked ham hock, about 1 pound (if your ham hock does not have a lot of meat, you can also add a ham bone)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- freshly ground black pepper
- Place picked over and rinsed beans in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Cover with cold tap water by at least three inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot and let beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.
- Combine beans, ham hock, garlic, 8 cups of water and bay leaves in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 1-1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add onion, carrots and celery and toss to coat with butter. Sweat aromatics until just softening, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Transfer the ham hock/ham bone to a shallow bowl and let it cool slightly.
- Transfer a ladleful of the beans to a small bowl, along with a little of the liquid. Using a hand masher or a fork, mash the beans thoroughly and return to the pot. Stir in the vegetable mix and season generously with pepper.
- When the ham hock/ham bone is cooled enough to handle, remove the skin, fat and bones and chop the meat into small pieces. Return the meat to the pot and simmer uncovered for another 1-1/2 hours, until beans are completely tender and the liquid has reduced somewhat, creating a slightly thick broth.
- Taste soup and season with salt only if needed. The ham will add quite a bit of flavor, so the soup may not need any additional salt. Discard bay leaves.