Smoked Ham Hocks & Cranberry Beans

(San Francisco Chronicle)

1 lb dried cranberry beans, or other white bean like cannellinis
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh savory + 1 tablespoon minced
2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 lbs smoked ham hocks
1.5 cups Onion Confit (see recipe below)
5 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme

In a large saucepan, combine the beans, 8 cups water, bay leaf and sprigs of savory. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are just becoming tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and continue to simmer beans until tender, adding more water if necessary, 1 to 1 1/2 additional hours. Set aside to cool in the cooking liquid. (You should have at least 3 cups of cooking liquid.)

In a large saucepan, cover the ham hocks with cold water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the meat is nearly falling from the bone, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the hocks, and when cool enough to handle, remove the meat and skin. Tear or cut the meat into bite-size or larger pieces. Mince enough of the skin to make 3 tablespoons. Set aside. Discard the bones and save the remaining skin for another use.

In a Dutch oven (or similarly sized vessel) heat 1/4 cup of the Onion Confit over medium heat until it is soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, pepper and about 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid. Stir, blending the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the beans, another 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, the meat and minced skin, the thyme, minced savory, and salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining Onion Confit. Fold together with a wooden spoon, being careful not to mash the beans. Simmer until thickened and hot, about 10 minutes.

Serve alone or over rice.

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