Hearty bean soup has been on the menu in the Senate’s restaurant every day since at least 1903. You could say it’s a rare unanimous mandate. According to one story, the tradition was started by a Congressman from Idaho who contended the soup should always include mashed potatoes, presumably Idaho potatoes. Another story attributes the soup request to a Senator from Minnesota who simply loved the stuff, despite no obvious ingredient connection to his home state. Senate Bean Soup (the more common name for this dish) is so iconic that it has its own recipe page on the Senate website, one version with spuds and one without. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The soup is inexpensive, easy to prepare, and although it needs to simmer for a couple hours, requires little attention beyond an occasional stir. If you don’t have time to soak the dried beans for 8 hours or overnight, try this quick-soak method. Put the beans in a large pot, add water 2 inches above the beans, and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 1 hour. Drain the beans, and then cook according to the recipe.
1 pound dried white navy beans, sorted of debris and rinsed
1 (about 1-lb.) ham bone or uncured ham hock
2 1/2 quarts water
1 large russet potato (about 8 oz.)
3 cups chopped celery (about 6 stalks)
3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium onions)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
How to Make It
Place beans in a Dutch oven; add water to cover, and soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans. Add ham bone and water. Cover and bring to a boil over high; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour.
Rinse potato; pierce with a fork, and wrap potato in a paper towel. Microwave on HIGH until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes; peel and mash potato. Stir potato, celery, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper into bean mixture; simmer over medium-low until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Remove ham bone from Dutch oven, and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard bone and fat; dice meat, and stir into bean mixture. Top each serving with chopped parsley.