Smoked ham hocks are inexpensive and give the dish rich flavor; substitute with ham steak if you prefer. This dish defines easy, relaxed cooking, so don't stress over measurements.
1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
9 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
6 fresh thyme sprigs
5 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 fresh sage sprigs (optional)
3 fresh basil sprigs (optional)
2 (1-lb.) smoked ham hocks
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)
4 cups chopped fresh collard greens
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (14.5-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
How to Make It
Rinse and sort beans according to package directions. Place beans in a large bowl; add water to 2 inches above beans. Cover and chill 8 to 12 hours.
Drain beans, and place in a large saucepan. Add onion and 8 cups broth. Tie together thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and, if desired, sage and basil with string; add to bean mixture. Add ham hocks and, if desired, rind. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until beans are tender but hold their shape. Skim off foam with a spoon.
Remove hocks, and cool 5 minutes. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Return meat to bean mixture. Add collards, and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until collards are tender.
Sauté garlic in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat 2 minutes or until light golden. Add tomatoes, and sauté 5 minutes. Stir tomato mixture and remaining 1 cup broth into beans, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Discard herb bundle and cheese rind; season beans with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy, East Memphis, TN