The demise of the Ham meant the birth of the Soup.
Hambones seem mythic to me. Southern. With pedigrees literary and long. I knew in theory what to do with a hambone but this was my first. Usually I leave it politely with its pickin's at its destination address. This time I stole it back. What does this say about me? That I've finally wised up? I giveth and I taketh away? That what vestige of manners I had left has been robbed by life in the big city? I was hungry?
Actually, I just wanted this soup.
Informed by lessons now forgotten in books read and internalized and possibly on my shelf, I went shopping. I bought kale for the first time in my life. Dark green, iron-rich-looking stuff, and it reminded me of a single plant I'd seen on the Bosphorus (beside it, I mean) in a back garden near a restaurant to which Bevan had taken me to eat on a cold day in a Turkish winter.
I knew I wanted white beans because of the classic pairing of beans and dark leafy greens I've absorbed via eating out and reading. A plateful at the River Cafe in London was good if lukewarm some years ago.
I thought I knew that collard greens (another mystery to me) take a long time to cook so decided to treat the kale the same way. So:
1 bunch of kale, washed
4 garlic cloves chopped finely
1 onion chopped finely
1 shallot, etc
1 Tbsp red chile flakes
6 thin rashers pancetta, in strips
1 hambone with about a cup of pickin's
2 cups white wine
juice of a lime
I put the bunch of kale in a stock pot in which some (1 Tbsp?) olive oil had been heating. I tossed in four finely chopped garlic cloves and clapped the lid on for the ensuing steam to help the leaves wilt. I stirred quite a lot to prevent scorching. I also added half a cup of water since the stirring threatened not to work. In the meantime I cleaned what was left from the hambone and divided it into apartheid-like heaps fat and meat. I got rid of the fat (that would be the whites being pushed into the sea?). After five minutes or so the kale had wilted and I added an entire tablespoon of red chile flakes. Then pancetta strips and a chopped onion and shallot (one should do this first, I suppose, before the kale, but I forgot, being distracted by the novelty of the frilly greens). Then the hambone and meat and the wine. Cooked it off for a minute and then added water to cover the bone. Juice of one lime. This lot cooked for an hour, uncovered, on simmer and then I added the well-rinsed can of big white beans I'd bought. Cans are exciting! I don't know much about them.
In a little saucepan I made a roux of 2 Tbps butter and about 3 Tbsp flour and cooked it over medium-low heat for five minutes. Then added hot liquid from the soup, stirring madly to prevent lumps. Then added that back to the stockpot to thicken slightly.
Another half hour, some salt and pepper and limejuice added and we were ready. Spooned it into big bowl and grated a bit of Parmesan over it, since I'd now decided it was Italian...