Friday, October 1, 2010

Pork and Shrimp Soup with Sweet Potatoes, White Beans and Spinach

We know chicken soup (by the gallons) and even beef soups. But pork? Why not? I had my first pork soup at as small restaurant in Michigan where I had my art studio. I was hooked. It was a very simple, clear stock with bits of pork and flavored with marjoram and tomatoes.

Most soups, like a good face, begin with bone structure! For this recipe you will need pork bones, and I don't mean a ham bone or ham hocks. When I can find them, I always buy an extra pack to freeze for later use.

The shrimp adds depth to this soup. Look for it on sale at the seafood counter. For this recipe, it was only 4.99 a pound and all I needed was about 1/2 lb.

(NOTE: I'm always somewhat remiss to give exact measurements when it comes to soup construction. It's important to taste, taste, taste when it comes to soups.)


Prepare the stock--can be made one day ahead. You will want at least six cups of pork stock.

  • 1.75- 2.00 pounds pork bones, well rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, roughly cut
  • 2 smashed cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon blackpeppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
  • a few leaves of fresh sage (optional)

Pork bones will often have a lot of bone chips left over from cutting up, so be sure to rinse them well several times under cold water.

Place in a large pot together with the onion, garlic, pepper and salt, thyme, and sage. Fill with cold water to cover, at least six cups. Bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 2-4 hours, skimming off any foam that floats to the top.

Strain into a large bowl removing bones etc. and discard. De-fat the stock if necessary.

Make the Soup:

  • 2 cups canned chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups cut up pork meat
  • 1 med-large onion, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, skinned and squeezed of seeds, roughly cut
  • 1, 16 oz. cannelini beans, rinse and drained (I use Progresso)
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, trimmed and roughly cut
  • 1/2- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram flakes
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes until you reach the golden interior. Slice into 3/4-inch rounds and slice each round into fourths. You want a thick dice so the potato doesn't disappear to mush.

For the pork meat: use meat that has some fat in it, this is usually a cheaper cut with more flavor. I've used country-style pork ribs and pork butt and pork sirloin.

You could sub kale for the spinach, just be sure to cook it longer.

Drizzle some light olive oil in your soup pot over med-high heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and pork. Cook until onion is opaque and meat loses it pinkness. Add chopped garlic and marjoram. Stir just to heat through and until fragrant.

Measure your pork stock and add enough chicken broth to make 8 cups. Add to onion mixture. Stir. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 30-60 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper at this stage.

Now add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beans. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or so or until potatoes are softened. Add spinach and stir. Cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Begin sprinkling with the smoked paprika, tasting as you go, until you're satisfied with the taste.

At this stage, you can stop and your soup will be ready. OR

Add 1/2 cup cut up fresh shrimp just before you add the spinach and allow to simmer until shrimp turn pink. Then add your spinach.

Taste and season as necessary.

copyright 2010, Gary T. Czerwinski

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