I really couldn't tell you what inspired me to try this recipe, it's at least 100 degrees outside in Austin and I made soup for dinner. Caldo Gallego, a Galician Stew is not a dish I am familiar with - but something in the ingredient list spoke to me. Maybe it was the mystery behind cooking with a smoked ham hock that drew me in - I had NO IDEA where to find one of those in the grocery store.
My version of Caldo Gallego was inspired by Bitchin' Camero. Caldo Gallego is a traditional Spanish soup with as many variations as minestrone. It is generally a brothy soup with beans, diced meat, vegetables and greens. My version includes bacon, smoked ham hock, potatoes, diced ham, spanish onion, kale, garlic, cannelini beans and paremsan rinds.
I chopped the bacon into small bits and browned over medium heat in my dutch oven. Use your biggest pot, this is making a lot of soup and it's GREAT left over and reheated. I cooked until the bacon fat was rendered and then I added two ham hocks. To answer my previous question - there were fresh ham hocks in the meat section of my grocery store. But I found these gems (smoked) near the chorizo and sausages.
Cover the ham hock with water and bring to a boil, cover and reduce to medium heat and simmer for an hour.
Meanwhile, I took two large russet potatoes and diced into one inch cubes.
Chop the onion into a small dice and mince a garlic clove - then add to the soup.
If you were going to cook this the traditional way, you would remove the ham hocks to a cutting board, and discard the bones then cut the ham into small, bite-size pieces and return to soup. I'm a little funny (read: weird/abnormal) about pulling meat off the bone. I couldn't do it. Instead I removed the ham hocks to the trashcan (yes, I tossed them) and then added prepared diced ham to the soup.
Add potatoes, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a slow boil for 20 minutes.
I keep a bag of Parmesan rinds in the fridge for this VERY reason - it will season your soup so nicely! A trick I learned from Mario Batali. I threw these in as the soup continued to cook, it turned out to be a great addition.
Drain the cans of cannelini beans and add those to the pot.
You can use kale, turnip greens or any thick green here. I used kale and coarsely chopped before adding to the soup.
Simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
Remove the parmesan rinds before serving. Like many soups, this is better the next day. Or at least after it cools and is reheated.