I Eat Like A God

It has become something of a tradition among the women of our little community that, when one is in need – sick, stressed, newly delivered of a child, etc. – the others will chip in and buy her a Honeybaked ham. This is a great blessing. I love the ham, but even more, I love the black bean soup The Wife makes from the bone after the ham is gone. She takes her recipe from Cook’s Illustrated:

Black Bean Soup

Best made a day ahead of serving so that flavors can meld in the fridge. Will hold for three days in the fridge. Although hamhock will hold probably just a tablespoon or two of meat, it’s worth taking the time to remove this meat and adding it back into the soup. For a different effect, garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Serves 6.


1 pound (2 and 1/4 cups) dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
1 smoked ham hock
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
1 medium onion, minced
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 and 1/2 t salt


2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
3/4 t salt
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 t dried oregano
1 T ground cumin

Finishing the soup

2 T cornstarch
1 T lime juice
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 small red onion, minced
Hot red pepper sauce (optional)

1. For the beans: Place the beans, ham hock, green pepper and 13 cups of water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to low, and skim surface as scum rises. Stir in onion, garlic, bay leaves, and salt. Bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until beans are tender, but not splitting (taste several, as they cook unevenly), about two hours. Remove ham hock from pot, cut meat into bit sized pieces, discard bone, fat, and skin. Stir meat back into pot of beans.

2. For the sofrito: Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, red pepper, and salt, and saute until the vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and cumin, saute until fragrant, one minute longer.

3. To finish the soup: scoop 1 1/2 cups of beans and two cups of cooking liquid into the pan with the sofrito. Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat, until the liquid is reduced and thickened, about five minutes. Return the sofrito mixture to the bean pot. Simmer, uncovered, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes.

4. Blend cornstarch and two tablespoons cold water together in a small bowl to form a paste. Stir the paste into the soup, and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. (Soup can be refrigerated in air tight container for about three days. Bring the soup to a simmer over low heat.) To serve, remove and discard the green pepper and bay leaves. Stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, and garnish each bowl with a spoonful of sour cream, a generous sprinkling of cilantro, and some red onion. Serve immediately, passing hot red pepper sauce at the table if desired.


  1. Now THAT is one mean black bean soup. Try having some fried ripe plantains on the side, and oh-so-good!!

  2. OK, so your family is given this Honey Baked ham for dinner because your wife JUST HAD A BABY….

    And then she MAKES THIS SOUP FROM THE BONE the next day???!!????

    Sainthood is guaranteed for her, you must know that.

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Okay, I have to respond here, because even I, wretch that I am, don’t ask The Wife to cook the day after giving birth…

    Hams are given under all sorts of circumstances – sickness, stress, massive doses of company, etc. – not just after birth. In our most recent case, it was company. And a ham is never polished off in one night. It usual serves as lunchmeat for two or three days after its initial dinnertime appearance. And even then, soup may be days, weeks, months away – the bone gets stored in the freezer.

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