Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caldo Gallego (Spanish White Bean Soup) Recipe

Caldo Gallego!

Oh Boy!!! I love trying new recipes and I really love it when they end up being terrific. This is hands down one of the best things I have ever eaten. Caldo Gallego is a Spanish soup that will permanently be on my favorite recipes list. This one will knock your socks off.

The day before soak 1 1/2 pounds of dried Great Northern beans.

I used jowl bacon to start this recipe. If you can't get your hands on a jowl, just use a thick smokey bacon instead. Dice it into small cubes and cook it until it is crispy in a heavy pot. Remove it and set it aside. Leave the grease in the pot.

It will take a bit of time to render the bacon. Cook it over medium heat and be patient.

While the bacon is cooking, dice 4 carrots, 2 parsnips (optional), 2 large onions and 4 stalks of celery.

Add the vegetables to the grease in the pot and saute' until they begin to soften.

Dice 6 cloves of garlic.

Add the garlic to the pot with 4 bay leaves and several sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Add 3 tablespoons of dried thyme and a tablespoon of cracked black pepper.

Add 16 cups of chicken stock. This recipe can be cut in half for normal people that don't feel that they need to cook for 100 people every day. I blame this on being raised by a parent heavily effected by the Great Depression.

Add a package of chicken demi glace'. If you can't find this in your neck of the woods, use 5 large chicken bouillon cubes.

Drain and add the soaked beans.

And here is the secret ingredient that totally makes this soup spectacular. Most recipes for caldo gallego call for andouille sausage. And you can definitely use it here. But I had none on hand. I love when I have to substitute ingredients and end up with a better result because of it. I had a sausage in my freezer that I had never used before yesterday, It is called Debreziner and comes from the Stiglmeier Sausage company in Wheeling, Ill.. Here is one place you can order it: These sausages are to die for. Years ago I used to buy these on the streets of Frankfurt but I did not know what they were called. They are lean and have an incredible smokey flavor which is extremely important to this recipe. You could substitute tasso ham or any good but very smokey flavored sausage.

I also added 2 smoked ham hocks.

In Spain, cubed potatoes are usually added to this soup. I thought that small pasta shells would be good and I was right.

You can see the ham hock at the top. Push them down into the soup and simmer. Discard them at the end of the recipe. You can cut the meat off and cube it and add it back to the soup if you wish.

It will take a couple hours for the beans to soften. Keep it at a constant simmer.

Slice the sausage and return it to the pot. This was another surprise to me. Usually when you simmer meats for this long, they lose a lot of their flavor. The Debreziner does not lose it's flavor at all.

Cut the fat veins out of a bunch of cleaned kale. Dice the kale and add it to the soup.

Boil the pasta for half of the time it calls for. Drain it and add it to the pot.

This might not look like much but I promise you, it is outstanding. It is so unlike any other soup I have ever eaten. It has a smokey, hearty, rich flavor. I love the way the beans find their way into the little shell pastas.

Make some soon. You won't be sorry. And do yourself a favor and order some of the sausage. I served this with the sourdough bread for dipping. Oh...I almost forgot. Just before serving sprinkle the crisped bacon back to the soup. It gives a wonderful crisp bite to each spoonful.