Friday, March 14, 2008

That's Not Ham in Your Beans

This week's recipe is neither vegetarian nor particularly a recipe. Yes, I know I'm getting lazy, but I discovered something extremely cool (to me at least) last weekend and wanted to share.

Quite some time ago my mother-in-law brought us package of a bulk bean mixture similar to the "15 bean soup mix" type of things you might have seen in the grocery store. My mom used to make this sort of bean soup pretty frequently when I was younger and I really liked it, but it usually involved some ham. Adam doesn't partake in pork products and I wasn't sure how to cook proper bean soup with them. So the beans sat and sat. I even had a discussion with another semi-herbivorous co-worker a few weeks ago about how it's hard to make good beans without the use of pork. She'd apparently tried turkey bacon and it hadn't worked at all.

Then last Friday I was watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network and Alton Brown used a smoked turkey leg in a pot of collard greens. I thought it was a really good idea and decided to try it on my bean soup. Despite his assertion that smoked turkey legs should be available in most large groceries stores, I had my doubts, but I was able to find them in the frozen section at our usual Kroger. At around $5 for two gigantic legs, they were also a pretty good value.

The bean mixture came with general instructions, but no seasonings, so I improvised to my tastes and decided to go with a Cajun-esque theme. After soaking the beans overnight, I sauteed diced onions, carrots, and green peppers (the Cajun "trinity") as well as some minced garlic for a little extra something. Then I added the turkey leg, the soaked beans, a Tbsp of Cajun seasoning, a tsp cumin (Adam's suggestion to play up the smokiness), salt, pepper, and a can of "petite diced" tomatoes. I then added enough water to cover everything by about an inch, stirred, and brought it to a boil. After it reached a boil, I covered the pot and turned the heat down to the absolute lowest my stove would go. I simmered it for the rest of the afternoon (4-5 hours?) until the beans were tender and the turkey was falling off the bone. I removed the turkey skin, the bone, the long shards of cartilage that are apparently part of a turkey leg and broke up the meat into small chunks.

The result was absolutely delicious and I'm glad that discovered a way to make good beans without pork.

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