A small snippet of the post-party carnage, preserved for your enjoyment.
(We did, in fact, put all the bottles in the recycling and clean up the dining/living rooms before going to bed, though we didn't quite make it to washing all the dishes. Nothing dampens party happiness like waking up to hideous aftermath.)
The #1 absolute best thing about living in Portland--better than the music, the weather, the forests, the bookstores, even the restaurants--is the friends. Seriously. Where have we ever lived before that we could round up 30-some-odd people to come over on a Sunday night (with their own bowls and spoons) and eat some weird soup with bread and kale in it and drink (vast) quantities of beer/wine and talk about music and midwifery and attachment parenting and racism and zombies until almost 2 in the morning?
No freaking where else, that's where.
The party was even worth the back-to-back sleepless nights I had beforehand. Saturday night, I was up 'til 5 (which I guess was technically Sunday morning) worrying that there wasn't going to be enough food, that there was no way I was going to make the soup right, that blah blah blah everyone is going to hate me waaah.
Fortunately, between my one regular soup pot (which really needs a name... any suggestions?), my one giant soup pot (which I think I'll call Biggie Smalls), and my Crock-Pot, I had just enough room for just enough soup to feed all our guests and still give us leftovers for lunch the next day.
Ribollita for Dozens!
Serves... well, you figure it out.
2 large loaves rustic French- or Italian-style bread (I used the sour batards from New Seasons)
2 to 3 pounds small white beans
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup sage leaves
Lots and lots and lots of water
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
6 medium onions, chopped fairly fine
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 ribs celery, chopped
About a head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced small-ish
Lots and lots and lots of salt and pepper (seriously, you'll probably need a good 2 or 3 Tbsp of salt)
2 28-ounce cans Italian whole peeled tomatoes
2 large bunches lacinato (a.k.a. Tuscan or "dinosaur") kale, center ribs cut out, leaves stacked and rolled up cigar-fashion, cut crosswise, then sliced lengthwise into ribbons
1 large Parmesan rind, cut into 3 pieces if necessary
More Parmesan, for serving
Two or three days before serving:
Cut the loaves of bread in half lengthwise and crosswise. Set the pieces aside to stale (a paper grocery bag works well for this).
The day before serving, or the day before that:
Cover the beans with water and soak overnight.
The day before serving, or early on the day of serving:
Drain beans, discarding soaking water. Combine beans, garlic, sage, and lots of fresh water (like 6 quarts or so) in a large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are almost tender, about 45 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp salt and continue cooking until beans are tender. Drain beans, reserving liquid; discard sage leaves. (It's fine if the garlic ends up in the beans.)
Rinse and dry the pot. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add potatoes and 2 quarts reserved bean broth. Bring to a boil; cover; reduce heat; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in undrained tomatoes and kale.
Meanwhile, puree 6 cups of the cooked beans with enough broth to make a smooth mixture. You'll probably have to do this in batches.
Now comes the exciting part. You probably don't have a cooking vessel large enough to hold everything (I know I didn't), so you'll have to do some dividing up here. You want equal proportions of whole beans, bean puree, vegetable mixture and broth to go in each of your pots/slow cookers/whatever. I'll leave you to it to figure that out. Drop a chunk of Parmesan rind into each batch of soup as you finish mixing it up.
...Done? OK! Now, if everything is on the stove, bring it to a quiet simmer and let it cook happily away for an hour or so. If you've got some in a slow cooker, turn it to High and let it go for three hours or so. Meanwhile, slice the crusts off the bread and cut it into large-ish (1-1/2" or so) cubes.
Taste the soup and season it generously (!) with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. Stir in the bread. Let everything sit for at least three hours or, preferably, overnight. (You don't need to refrigerate it.)
At serving time, heat everything up until it comes to a boil, or at least a vigorous simmer. (This is the ribollita, or "reboiled," part.) Serve piping hot with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan sprinkled over each bowl.