January 4, 2011

Navy Bean Stew

 The holidays are behind us and it's back to real life. I haven't posted in a while because I've been working so hard on my thesis enjoying the time off work and trying to finish the leftovers our families bestowed on us after Christmas... so there hasn't been much to blog about.  Short notes on the Dog Eat Blog Holiday include:

1. The winter storm that stranded us in a beach town.
2. Delightful times with family, complete with indulgent eating for a week.
3. The pound of fudge The Boog ate, requiring an injection of hydrogen peroxide down her throat that resulted in 4 days of vomiting.  
4. A slip on the ice that ruined my left hand for a week and colored it a lovely shade of purple followed by Boog-vomit green-yellow.  
5. Lots of reorganizing and simplifying in preparation of the new year to come. 
6. Lots of planning new things to cook and old things to remake.
7. Taking care of dogs (ours and others).
8. Being entertained by magicians, wizards, whodunits, and a surprisingly enjoyable Ben Affleck.
9. Ringing in the new year with high heels, champagne, gin and tonics, and Cranium.

I'm very excited about the next few weeks because I have a whole list of tasty treats I can't wait to make and share with you.  This will involve going to the Asian market, buying some exciting new beans, and playing with my Christmas presents- although not simultaneously. In the meantime, here is the recipe that ushered in 2011 for me and E.  It's simple, hearty and healthy comfort food.  It's perfect on a rainy or snowy day.  It fills your house with delicious smells.  And it's great for days afterwards.
The vegetarian recipe is listed, with instructions for meating it up below (which is how I originally made it).  And while you don't have to use dried beans here, you'll miss out on the long simmer, which forces you to stay indoors, near a warm stove, and fill your house with tasty smells all afternoon.  Plus, dried beans taste so much better.  But if you want to go the canned route, just skip the first bean-cooking step, and keep in mind it likely won't take as long as this recipe.

3 cups dried navy beans (or Great Northern or equivalent) or 4 cans
2 cartons vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup each diced carrots, celery, onion
2 cloves garlic. minced
2 bay leaves
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper

Combine navy beans and enough water to cover by 2 inches in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes.
Several glugs of wine = 1 cup

Meanwhile, prepare vegetables.  Heat large pot or Dutch oven with olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook about 8 minutes, until they begin to soften then add bay leaves, 1 tsp salt, and a few good grinds of pepper.  Add white wine to deglaze, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Simmer until wine is reduced by half. 

When beans are done cooking, add them and any leftover water to the pot with the vegetables.  Add the cartons of stock. (If your pot is not big enough for all that, you can add more stock as the broth is absorbed by the beans and the stew comes together.)  Turn the heat to medium and allow it to bubble away uncovered for 2-3 more hours.  Stir periodically and check for tenderness of beans and the liquid level.  You want the beans to be fall-apart tender, and the broth to be nice and thick.  (If you want the stew thinner, add more stock or water, this recipe makes a pretty thick stew.)  Once your beans are completely soft, check for seasoning.  You will need to add salt, but it'll depend on the stock you used, so wait until this point, and add salt to your taste.  
Serve with a drizzle of hot sauce (or good balsamic vinegar) and some crusty bread.

Meat Options:  For a non-vegetarian version, saute chopped bacon until crispy before you add the veggies to the pot, using the bacon grease instead of olive oil.  Then, add a ham hock to the pot when you add the beans.
Other Options:  Stir in some kale, spinach, or chard 20 minutes before serving to add some nutrients and top each bowl with a sprinkling of grated parmesan.
Leftovers:  Add a tablespoon of water before reheating so it doesn't get completely solid in the microwave.  Or, spread on a piece of toast and top with a fried egg for a cowboy-style breakfast (that sounds like what a cowboy would eat, right?). 

*NOTE- just after posting this, I realized one of my favorite blogs posted a very similar recipe this very morning.  With very similar ideas on eating it.  (Except she didn't see the Wild West connection for some reason....) I've decided this just proves the old theory that great minds eat alike.  More specifically, since she's all famous and stuff, and I had a similar idea, this proves that I have a great mind.  (I know, like you needed more proof....!)

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