Here is something Dan threw together last year, and it turned out so great, we made it again the other day. It's a good cold-weather dish. The first time we ate it, it had a ham bone in it, which was nice and salty. These ham shanks worked just as well -- the meat falls off the bones during cooking -- but you'll have to add a little salt while eating. (You can also just throw everything in a crock pot and let it cook on low all day.)
White bean & ham soup (serves about 8)
3 small cans of white beans
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 small pork ham shanks, whole (about 1 pound)
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves
dash of dried thyme
sprinkle of gumbo file
salt and white pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
enough water to cover the ingredients during cooking
1.) Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the celery and onion, and let that cook on medium while you rinse and drain the white beans.
2.) Add the rest of the ingredients, except the gumbo file and salt. Add enough water to just barely cover the shanks, which stay whole. They will fall apart while cooking.
3.) Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours.
4.) Sprinkle with gumbo file, and continue to simmer, partially covered, for another half hour to an hour. The water should have cooked down some, and the soup should be slightly thickened when served.
This goes great with cornbread. We like to sprinkle the cornbread on top of our individual servings.