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French Farmers' Soup

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Serves 6

Yields 10 cups

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 88

This hearty soup makes the most of root vegetables, paired with baby lima beans. If you're short on time, you can substitute 3 cups canned limas (rinsed and drained) for the dried beans, and skip the steps of soaking and cooking them, though the flavor won't be quite as rich.

  • 8  oz. (1 1/4 cups) dried flageolets or baby lima beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 1  medium clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt
  • 2  Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4  lb. bacon or pancetta (optional)
  • 1-1/2  cups shallots and leeks, chopped
  •  Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup peeled carrots, cut in 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 1  cup peeled celery root, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1  cup peeled turnips, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 5  to 6 cups homemade or lower-salt chicken broth or homemade vegetable broth
  • 1  to 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1  cup homemade croutons 
  • 1/3  cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Tip:
Don't have at least 4 hours to soak beans? You can quick-soak them. In a saucepan, add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let soak for 1 hour.

Put the beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Soak for 4 to 12 hours.

Drain the beans, rinse them, and transfer to a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add the garlic clove, bay leaf, and 6 cups cold water. Partially cover to limit evaporation and simmer gently, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and almost creamy inside, without being mealy or mushy, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When the beans are about three-quarters done, season with 3/4 tsp. salt. If at any time the liquid doesn’t cover the beans, add 1 cup fresh water. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the bay leaf.

Heat the olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta (if using) and cook until it browns. Pour the meat and fat into a small strainer set over a bowl and set the meat aside. Spoon 2 Tbs. of the fat back into the pot and return it to medium heat. Add the shallots and leeks to the pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until they begin to soften but not brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Add the carrots, celery root, turnips, and 2 cups of the broth. Partially cover and simmer until the vegetables are just barely tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the beans and 3 cups of the broth, plus 1 cup of the reserved bean-cooking liquid. If you have less than 1 cup of bean liquid, adjust the broth for a total of 4 cups liquid. Return the cooked meat to the pot, if using. Stir and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with a small handful of croutons and a sprinkle of parsley.

Make Ahead Tips

You can cook the beans 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in a covered container.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on soup made with bacon; Calories (kcal): 300; Fat (g): fat g 9; Fat Calories (kcal): 80; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2; Protein (g): protein g 16; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 40; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 470; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 5; Fiber (g): fiber g 9;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Loved this. Made it on a snowy afternoon and it hit the spot! I soaked the baby limas and followed the recipe exactly. I think cannellini beans would work just as well. Would not change a thing. It was given a thumbs up by all who tried it. Will be adding it to my winter soup rotation.

Delicious, the boyfriend loved it. Don't skimp on the fresh thyme or croutons, it really gives this soup its flavor. I cheated and used half a can of ready to eat white beans instead of the dried beans and it was wonderful. Definately making this again.

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