MENU: A Simple, Wholesome Supper

After a few long months of holiday celebrations, we're ready for something simpler. For a warming, hearty, wholesome meal, we love pairing smoky Senate Bean Soup with bright counterparts such as a raw kale salad and lemon-roasted vegetables. Health-minded as it may be, no meal is complete without drinks and dessert: End dinner with a glass or two of good red wine and some dark chocolate truffles.

THE MENU

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PLANNING TIPS
  1. To make this menu vegetarian, omit the ham hock from the bean soup (try adding roasted garlic to keep the richness and flavor the ham adds), and use butter instead of goose fat for the popovers.

  2. The soup can be made up to two days ahead and kept in the refrigerator; gently warm over medium-low heat before serving, adding water to thin if necessary.

  3. While the popovers keep, they're most delicious the same day they're made.

  4. Be sure to let the dressed kale salad rest for at least 20 minutes before eating, so the lemon juice in the dressing has time to soften the kale's fibrous leaves.

  5. Try a medium-bodied, not-too-sweet red wine with this meal, like Quinta da Terrugem Aliança Alentejo Single Estate 2007 ($23), a Portuguese bottle with a ripe, sweet nose, with touches of mineral and raisin and a long, licorice finish.



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RECIPE: Senate Bean Soup
In the early 20th century, someone ordained that bean soup should appear on the menus of the Senate's restaurants. Beige and creamy, studded with ham, and homey as a log cabin, Senate bean soup sends the politically useful message that lawmakers are small-town boys and girls at heart. -R.W. Apple Jr., from "Politics Aside" (September/October 2001)

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. dried navy beans, soaked overnight, drained
1 smoked ham hock
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bring beans, ham hock, and 8 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 10" skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with beans, reduce heat to low to keep warm. Remove ham hock, let cool slightly, and then remove meat, discarding bone, skin, and excess fat; finely chop meat and add back to soup. Lightly mash some of the beans in the pot to create a thick, creamy texture; season with salt and pepper.

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