For the beans
½ pound dry cannellini beans, white beans, or bertolotti beans
1 onion, halved at root end
2 large bay leaves
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
For the soup
2 beef shank steaks, about 1¼-1½ inches thick
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 large onion or 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
½ bulb fennel, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped
A bundle of fresh sage and parsley
1 bundle flat kale (Lacinato/Tuscan), stemmed, washed and dried, coarsely chopped
1 large head escarole, washed and dried, coarsely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (no more than 1/8 teaspoon)
Rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus grated cheese to serve
2 quarts beef stock
Fruity green extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for finishing
White onions, rinsed and finely chopped, to serve
For the Brown Butter and Sage Breadcrumbs (optional garnish for soup)
2 cups large fresh breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons butter
12-16 leaves sage
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For beans, soak beans in large bowl overnight, covered by 3 inches of water, then drain and rinse. (To quick soak, cover beans with boiling water and let stand for 1 hour, then rinse and drain.)
Place beans in pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Add onion, bay leaves, and crushed garlic, bring beans to boil and cook at medium rolling boil for 40-45 minutes until just tender. Remove onion and bay leaves.
For soup, bring shanks to room temperature and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat with EVOO, 3 turns of the pan. Add the beef shanks and brown on each side to a reddish brown color and nicely crusted, then remove to plate. Add onions, celery, fennel, garlic and sage/parsley bundle, and reduce heat to medium, partially cover and cook until onions are translucent, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Wilt in the kale and escarole a few handfuls at a time, and season with a little nutmeg. When greens have wilted, add rind, stock and beef, and cook at low rolling boil over medium-low for 45 minutes. Add beans and 1-2 cups of their starchy liquid, simmer 15 minutes to heat through. Remove beef shank steaks and remove meat from bone (pull or chop beef), then add to soup. Remove sage/parsley bundle and rind. Add juice of 1 lemon. Serve with a drizzle of fruity finishing EVOO and minced white onion. Add sage breadcrumbs (optional).
For brown butter and sage breadcrumbs, if using, preheat oven to 350°F. Scatter breadcrumbs on small baking sheet and toast to deeply golden in color, about 15-18 minutes. Place in bowl.
In a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat, melt butter and let it foam, add sage, cook to crisp and butter is brown, 2 minutes. Butter should be nutty and fragrant. Remove crispy sage leaves to paper towel with a fork, pour butter over breadcrumbs and combine. When cool, add cheese and crumbled sage to crumbs.
Make your own beef stock using Rachael’s recipe below: 4-5 pounds beef bones with marrow cut into pieces, from butcher counter 4 large carrots, coarsely chopped/cut into quarters 1 large parsnip, quartered 1 parsley root (if available) 4 ribs celery with leafy tops 2 onions, quartered through root 1 large bulb garlic, halved across Salt Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for liberal drizzling 3 large bay leaves A bundle of parsley, or parsley stems and fresh thyme 10 black peppercornsPreheat oven to 400°F, with rack one rung above oven center.
In a large roasting pan, place bones, carrots, parsnip, parsley root (if using), celery, onions and garlic, season with salt, and drizzle to coat evenly with EVOO. Roast 45-50 minutes, turning bones halfway through. Carefully transfer bones and vegetables to stock pot, and add bay leaves, herb bundle and peppercorns. Place roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high heat to loosen pan drippings with a couple cups of water. Loosen the bits, and pour over the bones and fill pot to cover bones and vegetables by three inches. Bring stock to boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 4-5 hours, skim any solids that float to the top. Strain stock, and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze for later use.
Yields 2-2 ½ cups stock