Saturday, October 06, 2007

Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup

The crew of the El Dorado Western Railroad pulled its star attraction out of the engine house this morning for the second annual Fall Home and Harvest Show.

I used the occasion to prepare lunch for 12 volunteers of the railway and museum. In honor of our locomotive's 100th year, I selected dining car recipes from two railroad cookbooks -- Chesapeake and Ohio Dining Car Recipes, compiled by E. Stirling "Tod" Hanger, Jr. (C&O Historical Society: Clifton Forge, VA, 1995), and Dining By Rail: The History and Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine, by James D. Porterfield (St. Martin's Griffin: New York, 1993).

The old fashion navy bean soup is composite recipe from the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. I also prepared cole slaw from the Missouri Pacific Lines and toasted hot Mexican sandwich from the Santa Fe.

The 100-year old locomotive (Diamond and Caldor No. 4) is located at the El Dorado Historical Museum. Volunteers are on hand each Saturday from 8 a.m. to about 1 p.m. to show visitors the inner workings of a geared Shay locomotive.


I use low-sodium beef broth in the recipe so I can control the amount of salt that gets added to the recipe. I'd rather add salt later than use a heavily salted beef stock or base.

You need an 8-quart stockpot or No. 10 Dutch oven for this recipe. Use a 12-inch deep camp oven if you're cooking over hot coals outdoors.

2 pounds navy beans
4 quarts low sodium beef broth
12 ounces bacon, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced small
6 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Pick over beans, removing discolored beans and foreign matter. Wash thoroughly in cold water. Cover beans with beef broth and bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour.

Saute bacon in a heavy large skillet until crisp. Drain off most of the bacon fat. Add onions and carrots and sweat under medium-low heat until soft. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes before adding bacon-vegetable mixture to the bean pot.

Bring beans to a boil, cover and simmer 2 hours or until beans are tender. If needed, thicken soup with a flour and paste. Stir in the heavy cream and parsley just before serving.

Serves 20 (1-cup) portions. When used as the main course, the recipe will only serve 12 to 16 persons. This recipe yields about 5 to 5-1/2 quarts.

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