Sunday, December 27, 2009


When I was in college I lived on "leftovers" as a lifestyle. I would make a pot of spaghetti, or soup (pea or chicken, usually), or stew or a pastitio, on Sunday, and then eat it heated up all week. Leftovers nowadays are the province of Bill, who has a tendency to show up dinnerless around 11 p.m. and eat whatever I've made for dinner. Sometimes I leave him a nicely presented plate to heat up, but sometimes it's spooning something out of tupperware, a much more left-over-y thing to do.

Holidays, of course, generate days and days of leftovers, and an entire culture and recipe book based on them. Nowadays in our family there seems to be an unspoken consensus to send all the leftovers home with the starving musician, but I'm still left with a fridge-full of food.

Turkey generates soup, jook, hash, and sandwiches. Looking at that search page for jook, I see that you can also use ham (why not?), and ham is what we had this year. So that's added to the leftovers list this week.

But the major thing that a nice ham yields is that bone. That big juicy ham bone with all the yummy little bits hanging off it. Boil it up, throw in some peas or beans, black, white or red. Campbell's soup got it right. mmm mmm good.

Spicy Black Bean Soup with ham
1 or 2 cans or one-half to one whole bag dried black beans (depending on how much bean-to-soup ratio you like)
ham bone

2-3 jalapeno peppers
large red pepper, diced
large onion, diced
2 ears, nibletted, or 1 small bag frozen corn
1 large carrot, sliced
1-2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
other vegetables as the spirit moves you

seasoning (premixed "Mexican" or make your own: chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, cilantro. That sound you heard was Rick Bayless spinning in his hacienda at the thought of premixed Mexican seasoning.)

If using dried beans, in the morning, boil them in 8 cups of water for 20 minutes, then let them sit at least 6 hours, or until dinnertime. Drain off the liquid and leave the beans in a large pot (at least two quarts; gallon even better). Canned beans should be drained, rinsed if you're particularly fastidious. Don't conserve the liquid; nothing against the taste or nutrition, it will just make the soup look nasty.

Cut as much loose meat off the bone as you can, dice, and set aside. Simmer the ham bone 1 hour in vegetable stock (or make the stock while boiling the bone, by putting in pepper corns, salt, a couple celery stalks, the onion skins and any other vegetable refuse lying about), using enough liquid to cover the bone, about 8 cups. this will reduce to about 6 cups. While the ham bone is simmering, sauté the celery, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and spices in olive oil (I'm using jalapenos that were preserved in olive oil, so I used that oil, with its spicy overtones).

After an hour, strain the liquid into the beans, and add the sautéed veggies. Bring to a simmer. Adjust the spices. Cut any more meat off the bone and add that and the other conserved meat to the soup. Cook at a very low simmer as long as you can stand smelling it and not eating it.
Since this made about 4 quarts of soup, you can now have leftovers of your leftovers.

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