Today's guest post comes from one of my favorite people in the world, my friend Laura. We met in 2003 while working as interns at Southern Living magazine in Birmingham, Alabama. Laura and I felt an immediate kinship amongst the debs and wannabe debs who also entered the internship program, but the deal was sealed when we realized we were both really into food. When we weren't writing or making photocopies, we feasted on BBQ and meat-and-three, drove down to New Orleans for po' boys, and over to the Redneck Rivera (A.K.A., the border between Florida and Alabama) for peel-and-eat shrimp. It was one of the best times in my life. Not to mention highly caloric.
Post-internship, Laura moved to Arkansas and later to Columbia, Missouri, where she lives now. Although we were in Birmingham together for just a handful of months, we'll always share a special Southern-fried bond. I can't count how many times I've wanted to hop a plane to her house so we could make dinner together. The next best thing is having one of her recipes--especially one passed down from her grandmother. It's perfect winter eating and easily feeds a crowd.
“Come on over honey. I’m fixing some Goulash.”
Even though she was cooped up in her nursing home room, in my Grandma’s dementia-rattled mind, I was coming over, and she was going to make me a stew. For me, it’s a warm and fitting memory of our final conversation. As mother of four and grandmother of seven, Martha Bruegge was always planning her next meal.
So when I recently found myself with a leftover spiral ham from the holidays, Grandma Bruegge’s recipe wafted into my mind. I left a pot on the stove when my husband invited the guys over to yell at the TV (i.e. watch college football). It’s even better when served with cornbread, or the next day.
Martha Bruegge’s ham & beans
My aunt recommends adding a cube of jamón, or Spanish ham bouillon seasoning, to the soup for extra flavor. If you’d like a thicker soup, add one or two pealed and sliced white potatoes when you add the beans.
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 ham bone
About 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable stock
3 cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
Handful of fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp. of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups ham, cubed
½ tsp. ground white pepper, to taste
Pour oil into large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and cook until onions are translucent. Add the beans, bay leaf and ham bone and enough broth to cover the mixture (except for the bone). Bring to a boil and then simmer on lower heat, covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for another 40 minutes to an hour, until the mixture reaches desired thickness and the broth has been absorbed (while this is cooking, remove and chop the usable ham from your spiral ham because this will take a while). Remove ham bone and discard. Add in dried or fresh thyme leaves, chopped ham and white pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes and enjoy.