Sometimes holidays are not what you planned. Often they take on a life of their own. Perhaps that’s what Christmas is all about. Welcoming or being open to something new, something loving, maybe even moving on from what you thought you had to have.
think a long, cold and frozen day nursing a hangover and watching old movies while playing cards with the kids, right?– but since I love black-eyed peas and my folks were both raised in the deep south, I’m going with those little beauties this year. (For an interesting article on many New Year’s Day lucky food traditions, click here.)
Have my cookbook, Soups and Sides for Every Season?
If you’ve read More Time at the Table for long –and we’re just about to celebrate our fifth birthday — you’ll know I adore beans and particularly love bean soup. I feel overwhelmingly rich when there’s a ham bone in the refrigerator just waiting for me to throw it in the pot one morning. While I’ve made bean soup for many years, it rarely comes out exactly the same as it did the time before and while I’m not always sure why that is, I’m happy for it. Of course the taste is dependent upon which dried bean you use and there’s the rare occasion I’ve used a few different cans of beans when there was no time for the long indulgent soup pot. Or it might taste differently because of the seasonings or the type or amount of ham. In this case, I pulled out the Easter ham bone (originally a 7-pound ham that now had been nearly, but not quite, picked clean for sandwiches) and looked in the pantry for a bean just a bit different the typical white, navy, black, split pea, black-eyed pea (actually a legume), etc.
Last time I was at Williams-Sonoma, they had, as they often do, a basket of marked down food products. I’m willing to pay their price for several items I can’t get elsewhere and that are worth it. Great vanilla extract, for instance. California olive oil. But there are other items I’ll spring for only when they’ve made it to the mark down rack. This is where I’ll buy really expensive Italian or Spanish olive oil that I wouldn’t pay the original $50.00 for. I’ll pick up unusual cocoa or coffee at half-price. And this is where I bought Snow Cap Beans, which are heirlooms, for $5.99 (15 ounces) instead of $11.95. Continue reading
|Nothing like the fragrance of rosemary for remembrance filling the house in December.|
I’m not a cheap cook, but I have always looked for inexpensive ways to provide our daily bread. Raising a house full of kids, I often had no choice. Even today, when we’re empty nesters with a bit more funds than when the kids were home, I look for ways to save a bit here and there because it’s the right thing to do. It’s often healthy, too. I buy the best I can find for the least amount of money. If you’ve ever cooked for a soup kitchen, or worked in a food pantry, you’ll know that beans go a long way, are low in calories, and high in fiber. They’re filling and versatile. They can also be yummy. Hence this pot of smokey-fragrant “French” beans with lots of
- smoked ham (or pork chop)
- big flavors of rosemary, thyme, and bay,
- browned chicken thighs, legs, (I like Kadejan chicken from Glenwood, MN) and…
- sausage pieces.
What makes the beans French? Probably the herbs and the nod toward a très simple and abbreviated version of cassoulet, which takes three days to make using the traditional method. I use regular navy or white beans; the French often use tiny white beans called flageolets. (For my easier, but still two-day version of cassoulet, click here. I’ll freely admit it needs better photos…phewee.) If you don’t know what cassoulet is, it’s a holiday or large-group gathering winter French meal that includes beans, vegetables, sausage, duck confit, pork, and more. There are layers of cooking involved and a final, huge deep oven-baked pan of oh-my-cook goodness to feed the masses. Lots of lusty red Rhone wine is required, as are copious amounts of baguette to soak up the never-should-be dry bowlful. Cassoulet is a celebration I occasionally do for Christmas Eve. This year, I’m trying not to conquer the world in just one day; I have no idea what we’re having, though a great big bowl of Bolognese is in my freezer. (What riches!)
While this is not a fast recipe (nor is it the three-day marathon), it’s one to enjoy making when you need to be at home anyway. I think it truly is a one-dish meal. You could add a salad if you want, but I’m not sure you need bother. A little cheese afterward perhaps.
Maybe make this when snow flies or folks are on the way and a nice pot of anything will be the relaxed ticket for the evening. I’m convinced the reason many people don’t cook (or say they don’t have time to cook) is because they just don’t stay at home. Our running, crazy world keeps us distracted and sometimes isolated despite all of our “connectivity.” There’s a lot of feeling good to be done around a bit slower life that includes some cooking and sharing of meals. Invite someone over to play cards for the afternoon while this is in the oven (and everyone oo’s and ah’s over the great smells) or serve for a post-holiday meal to use up some of the ham you made for Christmas or New Year’s.
Here’s the “recipe” in photo form… It’s really a method and precise amounts aren’t truly necessary. Use your inner creative cook!
french beans with smoked sausage and chicken
Cooks note: You’ll need to soak a pound of dry white beans overnight just covered with water or
quick-soak them by covering with water, bringing to a boil, and covering for one
hour before beginning this recipe.
|Chop 1 large onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 stalks celery, and 3 carrots.|
|Add vegetables to pot with 2 rosemary sprigs, 1 teaspoon dried Thyme and 1 bay leaf. Stir. (The rosemary will come apart during the cooking. You’ll remove the leftover twig at the end.)|
|While the vegetables cook for five minutes, or so, chop 1/2 cup smoked ham, ham hock, or smoked pork chop. (I just cut some off a ham hock and froze the rest of the ham hock. Cook another five minutes, stirring.|
|To bring up the browned bits on the bottom (deglaze) the pot, add 1/2 cup white wine. Simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring.|
|Pour in 5 cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Add one pound rinsed and soaked dry white beans.* Reduce heat to simmer.|
|Cover and let cook an hour or so until beans have just begun to soften. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; taste and re-season if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Meantime, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet heated over medium flame. Salt and pepper well 6 chicken legs and thighs** and cook them about ten minutes on each side until nicely browned, but not done all the way through.|
|Slice about 8 ounces of smoked sausage into 1/2″ thick slices (I used Aidell’s smoked Italian Sausage with Mozzerella; Kielbasa would be fine) and..|
|add to the pan of browned chicken. Let cook about two minute or until hot. Add chicken and sausage to the pot of beans, gently pressing chicken down into the bean mixture not necessarily to cover, but to moisten.|
|Bring to a boil, cover, and place pot in preheated oven. Let bake until beans are tender and chicken is cooked through, about an hour. Taste and re-season as needed. Remove rosemary “branches,” but leave bay leaf in. Whoever gets it has good luck!|
|Serve hot in large, shallow bowls with sturdy bread and a big glass of red Rhone.|
*If you use a 6 quart pot instead of a 8 quart pot, you may not be able to fit all of the chicken in it. Put four pieces of chicken and all of the sausage in the pot before baking and continue cooking additional two pieces of chicken stove top until they are done. Cool and reserve to add to the pot when the beans are tender and you take it out of the oven. I used the Le Creuset 26, which translates to close to 6 quarts. Make sure you check your pot’s manufacturer’s directions for the safest oven temperature. Some pots are 350 degrees Fahrenheit; some are 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
**I like dark meat for slow cooking. If you like breasts (white meat), go ahead and use them, but I think they will get over done here unless you almost totally cook the beans stove top first and only
put the entire pot into the oven for the time it takes to finish the breasts.
about dried beans (from livestrong.com)
I don’t know if Friday Night “Dinner and a Movie” is still on. Last time I tuned in, it offered decent film viewing as well as little vignettes and cooking segments presented by talented folk. The music was the late 40’s jump tune (Louis Thomas Jordan), “Beans and Cornbread!” Loved it. I don’t know what it is about the phrase… Once you hear it, you just start walking around going, “Beans and cornbread uh uh uh…Beans and cornbread…” The “uh uh uh” is the tenor sax.
I raised my kids on bean soup and corn bread (or plain old beans and cornbread), though I don’t think I knew the tune back then… It’s a good tune!! And I still make it a couple of times a season. Simply put, we’re always glad to get it. It’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and goes a long way. Dried beans have a long history south and north of the Mason-Dixon line and both Dave’s mom and my mom made big pots to feed their families. So it’s comfort food for both of us. In fact, the first meal I had at Dave’s house when we were dating was a pot of ham and beans. (Crock-pot fare was big in the mid-70’s.) He’s quick to remind me that in his house, beans were always served with ketchup. In my house, ketchup with beans would have been anathema. Yuck. Hot sauce, yes. Vinegar with hot peppers, probably. Ketchup, no.
|This is a ham hock from our little corner store, Widmer’s.|
Beans are a good reason to cook a ham; you’ll have the ham bone. No ham bone? Buy a ham hock or two as well as a ham steak if you like a lot of meat. Have a great butcher? Have him/her cut that big ham hock in half for you. You’ll only need half. Wrap the other half well in foil and freeze for up to two months.
But there are beans and there are beans. There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. You can make all kinds… Here’s another version I offered on Dinner Place last spring:
Just for grins and giggles, let’s say you just want to make plain old very yummy bean soup. You’d like to know how to make a truly tasty cast iron pan of corn bread. You can. You can scratch that itch for a fine, old-fashioned meal. Even if years ago you did do the Elvis sneer– or squint and whistle in through your teeth when you knew there were beans for supper. My guess is you don’t do that any more. In fact, when you’re on a road trip, you may pull in to Cracker Barrel for just such a lunch.
And, uh, oh, by the way, if you invite friends to share this sumptuous repast and throw in a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône (choose an inexpensive version of this dry French red blend)…you’ll be at the top of the heap with them for your “rustic” choice in dinner fare. Pick up a baguette to add to the bread basket. A few olives in a bowl for starters. Sounds like a good New Year’s Day plan.
beans and cornbread alyce style
bean soup (made in two stages–broth/beans and soup)
makes 10 – 12 servings
First the broth and cooking the beans half-way:
1# dried white or navy beans, rinsed well, picked over and soaked overnight or quick-soaked*
1 Smoked ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 cups chicken stock
3 quarts water (or more as needed to keep beans cooking freely)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut in half
1 stalk celery
10 sprigs fresh parsley and 2 large sprigs thyme tied in a bundle**
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste)
*You do not have to soak beans contrary to common wisdom. They will, however, cook more evenly and (rumor has it) be less gassy if you do soak them. Place the cleaned and sorted beans in the pot with water just to cover overnight. Or for quick soak: place cleaned and sorted beans in pot just barely covered with water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Turn heat off, cover pot, and let sit one hour before making soup. Discard soaking liquid for either method.
**Or use just the parsley tied and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Add all of the broth ingredients to a large (10-12 quart) stock pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Let cook about an hour or until beans are just beginning to soften. Take out ham hock or bone and cool a bit. Remove any usable meat, chop, and return to pot. Discard bone. Remove herb bundle and discard. Remove large pieces of vegetables, cool briefly and chop; return to pot. Don’t take out the bay leaves. Whoever gets them has good luck. Continue below at “Make the Soup.”
Second, make the soup:
2 cups ham cut into half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup each chopped onion and carrots
Bring the pot of soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer and cook another 1-2 hours until beans and all vegetables are tender. (The time will depend somewhat on how high you have the heat, how done the beans already were, etc.) Add water, if needed, to ensure vegetables are all cooking very freely in liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove two cups of beans and vegetables and mash or puree in the food processor. Return mashed vegetables to pot and taste again for seasoning. Serve hot with corn bread, butter, and honey. Store cooled leftovers well-covered in the refrigerator three days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Variations: Want a slow-cooker bean soup? Try this one.
You can also slow–“cook” bean soup in the oven like my friend Tony does. Try this.
It doesn’t take much to convert this to a more French version. Read here.
alyce’s corn bread
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons for batter; 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 1 1/4 cups white or yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius). Place rack at center.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.
- Heat a 9″ cast iron skillet (23 Le Creuset) on the stove top over low flame with the tablespoon of remaining butter. (If using a baking pan, simply grease the pan.) Tilt and tip skillet from side to side to coat the entire pan with a film of butter. Remove from heat if butter begins to burn.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion, and reserved melted butter. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix well the dry ingredients (cornmeal – pepper). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
- Pour batter into hot skillet or greased pan. I let the pan sit there a minute or two. Using hot pad for skillet, carefully move skillet to oven center rack.
- Bake about twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown with crispy edges and a toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. Serve hot with honey and butter. Wrap leftovers carefully and store at room temperature for one-two days or up to one week in the refrigerator. (Good crumbled in milk for breakfast.)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
|Came home from a trip to find someone had (we guess) a bit too much holiday eggnog and ran our fence down. Sad.|
|Back from the groomer. A bit embarrassed by the regalia. Cute babies, HUH?!|
Better late than never: a little of the Thanksgiving baking above and below:
|Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie|
|Cranberry-Apple Tart with Almond Paste Crust|
|Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie plate on a baking sheet that’s already in the oven.|
|C is for Cherry|
|My One-Minute (microwave) Pumpkin Custards made into tiny pies with an Anna’s Ginger Thin.|
Sing a new song; make a pot of beans,