Wednesday, December 30, 2009

U.S. Senate Bean Soup

This is a variation of the famous hearty navy bean soup served for decades at the cafeteria of the U.S. Capitol. It has become a cherished soup icon.
Notice that the amount of fluid called for in the recipe is 6 cups; 3 cups of water or vegetable stock AND 3 cups chicken stock. Additional water is needed for the pre-soaking of the navy beans. A ham hock is most desired, although diced ham can be substituted. However, the simmering of the ham hock imparts a richer, full-bodied flavor not only from the attached meat but from the bone. Using diced ham will alter the ultimate flavor. This recipe is a good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.

• 1/2 lb. navy (or small white) beans, dried
• 3 c. water or vegetable stock
• 3 c. chicken broth
• 1 lg. ham hock (you can substitute 1 c. cubed or diced cooked ham, but flavor will be altered)
• 2 med. onions, diced
• 1/2 c. celery, diced
• 1/4 c. bell peppers, diced
• 1 c. mashed potatoes
• Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Cover the beans with water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse well.
Place the beans in a large heavy soup pot or pan and add the water, chicken broth, ham hock (or cubed/diced ham), onion, and bell pepper. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming any fat or "foam" that rises to the surface.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are soft, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Whisk in the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste (optional). Simmer for 15 more minutes.
Note: For parents who simply don't have the time to jump through all the hoops necessary to make this soup, you might try substituting a few can of drained small white or navy beans for the dried beans, thus eliminating the time needed for the soaking and simmering of the dried navy beans. Cut way back on the total cooking time, and, in theory, it should be a close duplication. However, I've not ever done this, so I may be off base and the soup won't be nearly as delicious. But, give it a try if you'd like. It could be amazing!
Serves 4-6.

A variation on this U.S. Senate/U.S. Capitol navy bean soup recipe: U.S. Capitol Bean Soup (Senate and House of Representatives) recipe found on This recipe varies from the one directly above, but you may be interested in trying it (this version does not use bell peppers). Since I will likely never taste the original navy bean soup, I have no idea which recipe most closely mimics the one served in the Capitol, but both are good recipes.

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