I started by building a nice sofrito base, cooking down some chopped onion, garlic, and black pepper in a little bit of chicken stock. When the onions were getting all nice and melty, I added about half a bag of dried navy beans, rinsed but not soaked. I think this is the first time I've ever cooked with dried beans. As long as you have the time, it's great. For the next hour or two, I just let the beans slowly simmer in the sofrito, chopped rosemary, thyme, a bay leaf and stock, adding a bit more stock and then a couple pints of water as needed. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do about adding the ham - I wanted the smoky flavor to build into the soup but I didn't want the ham to get all chewy or anything. In the end, I put the ham in about an hour after the beans, maybe a little less.
That was pretty much it. I just let the soup simmer until the beans softened up, playing around a bit with the spices along the way until it seemed right. A pinch of kosher salt here. A shake of boquet garni there. Once the beans were finally soft, I tossed in some chopped spinach, let it cook just a bit more, and that was it.
While the soup was cooking, I whipped up a quick apple crisp. Although a normal person would eat soup and then dessert, I'm not going to lie.... straight for the crisp for dinner. Like magic, the chill in the air seemed to drag me right back into the kitchen. Yay!