White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale – Using Up Leftovers!

Scrappy Stew - White Beans, Kale and Roast Chicken
So it seems winter is going to beat us down at least one more time before spring officially arrives.  Maybe more, but I’m hoping for just one last hurrah.  I used to love winter and all its coziness and hot tea and warm socks.  But now that I’m a mother of two little people, I find winter to be quite suffocating.  I just NEED there to be the option to go outside.  When I had Ellie back in November, I quickly taught Ollie how to open the backyard door by herself.  That was probably the best move I made all year.  She could come and go while I fed the baby and everyone was happy.  But when it snows, there’s this expectation from Ollie that we MUST GO OUTSIDE NOW AND YOU MUST GO WITH ME.  And it just isn’t that easy.  And frankly, as most of you know, it takes 15 minutes to get a child bundled up to go outside and then 5 minutes for them to get so cold they want to come back in.  I fail to see how it’s worth the effort.

The one thing I DO love about cold weather is the food. I love making a huge pot of beans and eating it over the following days in various ways.  Over cornbread, with smoked sausage, in a quesadilla, with a fried egg, whatever, it’s all good.  And this most recent batch of stew we made was my favorite.  Because Matt made it.  Seriously, though, we both make our beans in the same way and much in the spirit of the Family Meal Blog, I always love when a recipe is made by someone else in this family.  This stew also does my most favorite thing in the entire kitchen-world: it uses up leftovers!  We threw in a half used can of diced tomatoes, a handful of kale, onion, and some leftover turkey and sausage from a local bbq joint and it was frankly, amazing.  The beauty of a good bean stew is that you can add anything and if the beans are good, you’re good to go.  For this, I recommend using dried beans instead of canned, although canned would cut the prep/cook time by a good 8 hours.  They just don’t have the depth of flavor that starting with dried beans does.  And because we’re a part of Rancho Gordo’s Bean of the Month Club, (yes) I recommend you get their beans if you can find them!

White Bean and Kale Stew

 

White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale

  • Servings: 8-10
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*start this recipe the day before you want to eat it! Modified for a slow cooker below the recipe!

1 lb dried white beans, such as canellini
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced (these three ingredients together are called mire poix)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (we used half a can because that’s what we had leftover in our fridge)
1 smoked sausage link, chopped
4 oz. smoked turkey breast
1 small bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped

The night before you want to eat this stew, rinse the beans and then submerge them in a large stockpot by about 2 inches of water along with the bay leaf.

In the morning, bring the beans to a boil in the same water you soaked them in and add the onion, carrot and celery and garlic cloves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce to an active simmer and cook until beans are tender.  This time can really vary.  I’d say on average, I have the beans simmering for about 2 hours before they are a texture I like.  Some like al dente beans.  I’m not one of those people.  I also don’t like them to be total mush, like canned, but it’s your preference, really.  Just start tasting them after an hour and keep going if you’re not satisfied.

After about an hour of simmering, add in the tomatoes and meats (and honestly, the meats were leftovers in our fridge. You could add bacon, ground beef, no meat at all – this soup will be amazing no matter what).  Toss the kale in about 30 minutes before serving and adjust the seasoning of the stew with extra salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and serve with crusty buttered bread.

Slow Cooker Note: this could all be done in a slow cooker if you wanted to get it on before you go to work.  Just soak the beans in a large slow cooker overnight with the bay leaves with at least 2-3 inches of water covering the beans.  In the morning before you leave for work, add in the mire poix and garlic and turn it to low.  When you get home, add in the rest of the ingredients and turn it on high for about 30 minutes to let it boil.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Summer Corn Chowder – perfect for a rainy day

Corn Chowder and Cornbread

I hope you’re getting rain.  We got a little bit last night and it’s threatening to rain, today.  The clouds are hanging low and the wind is a cool 65 and I feel for a minute that it could be late September instead of the middle of July.  I live for cold weather and I’m still a little perplexed by why I live here, in the desert.  I grew up around here – maybe that’s it.  We long for things unfamiliar or for the relief we feel on the rare occasions we get a break from our usual reality.  I hear people in Seattle long for the beach.  I bet they don’t long for the desert, though!

Another comforting thing about food is the ability to transport myself into a feeling or a mood simply by the dish I prepare.  Caprese salad makes me long for summer nights, spice cakes make me wish for Christmas, chocolate chip cookies make me think of home.  A warm bowl of chowder with a thick slice of cornbread and a cold slab of butter puts me in the mood for a cloudy day and cooler temps.  So, in the middle of the heat of the summer, on this cooler week with cloudy days and threatening rain, let’s make a memory with a warm bowl of corn chowder and pray the rain stays a while.

Summer Corn Chowder and the Perfect Cornbread*
serves 6

4 teaspoons bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery,cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
3 ears yellow corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Place bacon in small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

Add onions, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to stockpot; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes.

Add corn, potatoes, and chile; cook until potatoes are tender, 10-20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Add half-and-half, and simmer until soup is hot. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and garnish with the reserved crisp bacon pieces.

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Cornbread

 

We only make one cornbread recipe, anymore.  The New Best Recipe is a wonderful encyclopedia of how to make every recipe basically, perfect.  We love this book and it never steers us wrong.  It’s quite bulky, but all the recipes are tested extensively and done in a myriad of ways, and they give a background as to why the recipes work.  It’s very trust-worthy and a definite go-to in times of need of a solid recipe!  Their Golden Northern Cornbread is our go-to cornbread recipe.  It’s light, fluffy, moist and slightly sweet.  Holds together beautifully to be a base for your bowl of soup, or just on the side with some cold butter.

The Best Golden Cornbread
makes 9 servings

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch square baking pan with butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.

Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk.  Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined.  Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan (we actually love to use our cast-iron skillet for this recipe). Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, 10 minutes.  Cut and serve warm!

 

Italian Pot Roast on a Snowy Day

snow1

It’s a day to be a little quieter, more reflective, or maybe just be still.  It snowed last night more than it’s snowed in a few years and it’s still coming down outside.  The wind is crazy as it always is in Lubbock, TX, which makes the wind chill around negative ridiculous.  Matt is getting to work from home – one draw back of having a desk job is that on a snow day, you still have to work.  But at least it can be done from the comforts of home.  Hot cups of coffee and a sweet, bundled up baby in tow.  I had dreams of going to the grocery store today to stock up for another week of good meals, but I think I’ll just warm up the amazing pot roast we had last night, roast an acorn squash till it nearly burns and make do with what we have.  If you have any cut of meat in your freezer like a roast, pork loin, whole chicken, try this recipe.  Stay in out of the cold and just let the oven do the cooking today.

pot roast

Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine*
6 servings

Vegetable oil
4lbs boneless beef roast, preferably chuck
1 tbs butter
3 tbs onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 of a medium sized onion)
3 tbs carrot, finely chopped (about 1 medium sized carrot)
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (Barolo, California Syrah, Zinfandel or Shiraz are all fine choices)
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 tbs chopped, canned Italian tomatoes (we use Cento brand)
A pinch of dried thyme
1/2 tsp fresh marjoram or an 1/8 tsp dried
Salt
Black pepper, fresh ground

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Put just enough vegetable oil in a large skillet to coat the bottom of the pan.  Turn the heat on to high and when the oil starts to shimmer, put in the roast.  Brown it well on all sides, then transfer to a platter and set aside.  Set aside your skillet without cleaning it out for use later.
  • In a separate pot with a tight-fitting lid, large enough to accommodate the meat, put 2 tbs of vegetable oil, the butter and the onion and cook on medium until the onion becomes a pale gold color.  Add the carrot and celery.  Stir thoroughly to coat well, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then add the browned meat back into the pan.  (We used a dutch oven)
  • Pour the wine into the skillet that you’d used to sear the roast, turn on the heat to medium high, and allow the wine to bubble briskly for a minute while scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen cooking residues stuck to the pan.  Add the contents of the skillet to the pot with the meat.
  • Add the beef broth.  It should come up two-thirds of the way up the sides of the meat, and if it doesn’t add more broth or water.  Add in the tomatoes, thyme, marjoram, salt, and several grindings of pepper.  Turn the heat on to high, bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then cover the pot and put it on the middle rack of the preheated oven.  Cook for about 3 hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes or so, basting it with the liquid in the pot, which should be cooking at a slow, steady simmer.  All the liquid may evaporate before the roast is done.  If that happens, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.  Cook until the meat feels very tender when prodded with a fork (about 3 hours.)
  • Remove the meat to a cutting board.  If the liquid in the pot is too thin and hasn’t reduced to less than 2/3 cup, put the pot on the stove on high heat and boil down, while scraping the cooking residues stuck to the pot.  Taste the juices and correct for salt and pepper.  Slice the meat against the grain, put the slices on a warm platter, arranging them so they overlap slightly, pour the pot juices over them and serve immediately.

We served this with roasted carrots and it was the perfect accompaniment.  I hope you all have a warm, cozy day and enjoy the momentary break from reality!

*Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan’s amazing book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking