Day number 5 of not being able to drive out of my neighborhood. I probably can't even get out of my driveway. I believe I have the only driveway that is completely shaded. Roads and sunny areas finally melting. Being that I always have plenty of food in my pantry and freezer, I was wondering what to make for dinner last night. It was chilly in the house, and I "caved in " and turned up the thermostat a notch. Looking for something a little different, yet warming, I started looking in the pantry and freezer. I saw chopped spinach, bacon and chicken broth. I reached for the bacon and chicken broth and left the spinach for another day. I always keep bacon in the freezer as I'm not much of a traditional breakfast person (I rarely eat breakfast....although I have been enjoying the blueberry muffins I made the other day I have been eating at "brunch" time). Bacon and broth in hand, I headed to the pantry. Onions and potatoes in the pantry... Yes, I was feeling the warming comfort of soup.
I thawed the bacon quickly in the microwave, diced the pieces, then fried slowly until light brown. To the bacon drippings, I added one large chopped onion and black pepper and let it cook at very, very low heat. Now it was starting to smell really good. I was warming up already! After the onion was cooked until tender, I added 6 cups chicken broth (boxed or canned will work just fine, but homemade broth is so easy to prepare...and good too). I was pleased with this so far, then I spied the potatoes in the pantry. I cut several small potatoes to equal about 3 cups of 1 inch cubes. I put the potatoes into the chicken broth and cooked until tender. Although, I like to used dried beans, I always keep several cans of beans in my pantry when I want something in a hurry. Two cans of great northern beans seemed to fit the bill. I drained some of the liquid out of the can then poured them into the broth. Next, I looked to my spice cabinet to choose some herbs. I wanted it simple so I chose thyme. Why thyme? I don't know, but I had it in my head when I opened the pantry. Beans, thyme, onion, bacon were working for me then I spied it. Yes, the bottle that would definitely give me warmth....CAYENNE PEPPER!! Now, I go pretty easy on the cayenne pepper, but you may add as much/little/or none if you like. I probably only added about 1/4 a tsp of cayenne pepper. To my sons, 1/4 tsp is nothing. They like their food peppery hot!!
I let the soup cook a little more, then mashed about 1/2 cup of the potatoes with a fork and added them back to the soup. It's a trick my mom used to do to thicken the tomato sauce when she cooked squash and potatoes. Works like a charm. What's soup if it doesn't have a thick broth? After about 1 hour, the soup is ready to eat and enjoy. When I was getting a drink out of the refrigerator, the red and green bottle of Tabasco sauce seemed to magically jump to my hand (I keep a refrigerator shelf for my sons with all of their Tabasco, hot sauce, habanero sauces so they can be easily found by them.... you know the old adage that many people can't find a thing in the fridge unless it's right up front). A nice huge bowl of warming soup. I actually ate two huge bowls of soup it was so good. I could have actually eaten three bowls I was so darn impressed with the flavor, but a friend of mine wanted to play some on line chess, so I stopped at two. Plus, I don't want to embarrass even myself by eating 3 bowls of soup!! A nice green salad would be a nice accompaniment to the soup, but I settled for some hearty bread slices.
Bean and Bacon Soup
2 16 oz cans great northern beans
6-8 slices bacon (I like the thick cut)
6 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped roughly (It's a rustic soup...)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cayenne pepper (more if desired)
3 cups cubed potatoes (russet)
Tabasco sauce (as needed)
As I was eating the soup, I was thinking that I could be easily made with a "Mexican" flair by adding pinto beans, jalapeño peppers, cumin, and cilantro.... I'll try that next time! It's really a soup that can be made with many variations. During our rare snow days, you use what is in the pantry. No potatoes? Use rice or orzo. Let me know what you added to your soup!