This take on a Tuscan winter greens soup gets an unexpected flavor boost from a kitchen staple of the American South: smoked ham hock. After imparting its savory smoke to the beans, the tender meat from the hock is shredded and panfried for a crisp, flavorful topping.
½cupextra-virgin olive oil
2ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2½cupsdried cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight and drained
1bouquet garni (1tsp. whole black peppercorns, 2bay leaves, 2sprigs fresh rosemary, and 2sprigs fresh thyme tied in cheesecloth)
1 smoked ham hock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 stalks lacinato kale (cavolo nero), or other kale, stems thinly sliced, leaves halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Heat ¼ cup oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Cook garlic, celery, carrot, and onion until golden, 10–12 minutes. Add stock, beans, bouquet garni, and ham hock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, until beans are very tender, 1–1½ hours. Discard bouquet garni. Transfer ham hock to a plate and let cool, then discard skin and bone and shred meat; set aside. Transfer half the beans to a bowl and set aside. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée soup until smooth. Stir in reserved beans, salt, and pepper and keep warm.
Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high and cook kale stems until tender, 3–4 minutes. Add kale leaves, salt, and pepper; cook until leaves are wilted, 2–3 minutes. Stir kale stems and leaves into soup. Add remaining oil to skillet and cook reserved shredded ham until crisp, 6–8 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with crispy ham.