Senate Navy Bean Soup
A mainstay in the U.S. Senate dining room for more than a century, this simple bean soup was in dire need of reform.
Why This Recipe Works
The origins of this mainstay of the U.S. Senate cafeteria may be up for debate, but its list of ingredients is simple and clear: navy beans, ham hocks, onions, celery, and (sometimes) potatoes. Since many of the versions we tried yielded bland, stodgy soups, we build layers of flavor by first brining the beans and then doubling up on the trademark smoked ham hock to infuse the dish with even more porky flavor (but not an excess of meat). We wait to add aromatics—in this case sautéed onions, celery, and garlic—to the soup near the end of cooking so that they retain their savory punch and texture next to the tenderness of the fully cooked beans. And while mashed potatoes are traditionally used to help thicken the soup, we found that cooking diced potatoes in the soup worked just as well, especially after a few strokes with a potato masher.