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White Bean and Ham Soup with Corn Bread Croutons

To save time, purchase already-made corn bread. Make sure your pan is really hot when you add the corn bread cubes to ensure they get a nice golden sear (but work fast so the butter doesn’t burn). Pass extra croutons at the table.

Ingredients:

  • 4 thick-cut bacon slices
  • 1/2 lb. cooked ham steak, cubed
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans (each 15 oz.) white beans, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the corn bread croutons:

  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small loaf corn bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Directions:

Set a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let the bacon cool, then crumble into bite-size pieces. Set aside in a bowl.

Add the ham to the pot and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the ham to the bowl with the bacon.

Add the olive oil, onion, garlic and celery to the pot and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Puree half of the soup in a blender. Return the puree to the pot along with the ham and bacon and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the corn bread croutons, in a fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the corn bread cubes and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown on both sides.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve immediately, topped with the croutons. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2011).