Thaw the meatballs, if you’re using frozen (I use the microwave). If they are tiny meatballs, leave them whole; otherwise, cut them in halves or quarters, so that they are bite-sized. Chop the onion into fine dice (you’ll have about 1 cup).
In the aftermath of a roast chicken dinner, I make overnight chicken stock. For one chicken carcass, I use an 8 quart stockpot. Naturally, I strip all the meat off the chicken bones. Remove any lemon or herbs from the cavity,
When you make this quick white bean & escarole soup, don’t feel you are required to use every ingredient just as listed. I like to use escarole, which is available throughout the winter, but you could substitute any type or mixture of dark leafy greens: chard,
Crush the garlic cloves and chop all the other vegetables coarsely, including the greens. Don’t bother to skin or seed the tomatoes. Add other vegetables if you wish, but not any from the cabbage family, as those will make a smelly end product.
In a large stainless or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook the diced bacon until the fat has rendered, and the bacon is golden and crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper-towel lined plate and reserve for later.
Melt the butter in a large 12-16 quart stockpot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and peppercorns, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften without browning. This will take up to 10-15 minutes.
Heat a 4-quart heavy pot over low heat, and add the bacon and butter. Cook the bacon slowly so that some of the fat renders, then increase heat and cook bacon until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon,