Sopa de Funcho

(Fennel Soup) Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups          dried white kidney beans
  • 1 pound              pork ribs or pig's knuckle
  • 8 cups                 water
  • dense bunches feathery fennel leaves or 2 fennel bulbs with green leaves
  • 1 medium(about 1 cup)          onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves                    garlic, finely chopped
  • bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon            ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon             black pepper
  • 3 (about 1 cup)          Savoy cabbage leaves coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 3 large (about 3 cups)           new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch (about 1/2 cup)         scallions, dark green stems removed, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons             olive oil
  • 1/2 pound                    linguiça, cut into 1/8-inch rounds

Instructions

THE DAY BEFORE
  • Soak beans overnight in enough water to cover by 2 inches.
  • Rub the meat with 2 tablespoons coarse salt and chill overnight.

NEXT DAY
  • Drain and rinse the beans. Set aside.
  • Clean any excess salt from the ribs (or pig's feet) and place in a 4-quart stockpot with the beans and water. Cover, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is tender and the beans are easily mashed (about 1 hour). Occasionally skim the surface of any impurities.
  • Meanwhile, trim and discard coarse stems from the fine feathery fennel leaves. Finely chop enough leaves to yield 2 cups. (If you are using fennel bulbs, discard the outer layer. Separate sections of the bulbs, rinse well and coarsely chop.) Set fennel aside.
  • Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf, cloves, and black pepper to the pot. Simmer 5 minutes, then toss in the fennel leaves, and chopped bulb if using, along with the cabbage, potatoes, scallions, olive oil, and sausage. Return the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to simmer until the potatoes are done and the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Generally this soup needs no additional salt, but taste and season to your preference.

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