Tuscan Bean Stew

December 17, 2016

You’ve seen a lot of posts from me this week! It’s snowy and icy and “Portlandy”. We don’t really handle snow and ice here very well; the town we live in (Beaverton) doesn’t even own a snow plow. Which makes sense since we really only get snow once every two years or so.  But when it does snow, getting around can be very difficult. When the first flake fell on Wednesday a work friend and I jumped in my car in Portland and headed for home. As it turns out we were at the end of the bunch of cars that made it home in a reasonable time; as we headed up Sylvan Hill on Highway 26 traffic was beginning to bunch up so we took the next possible exit and headed home on the back roads.By the time we crossed 217 traffic was backed up for miles. I dropped off my friend and got home in about 45 minutes. People who left after us were stuck on the roads for four or five hours! Kids in the local high schools had to stay at school because the busses couldn’t navigate the ice and the traffic.

So, I stayed home from work (did I tell you I went back to work part time a few months ago?) a few days and with the forced idleness I resumed my joy of blogging – working even part time really cuts into my fun time.

A year or so ago I found a recipe for Tuscan Bean Stew that I wanted to try – it is like the White Bean and Kale recipe I made a couple of years ago with two big differences. First, this is not vegetarian – I used six ounces of pancetta! Second we use the slow cooker rather than the pressure cooker – this allows us to not have to soak the beans overnight. I followed this Cook’s Country recipe (it is behind a pay wall). The free sister site America’s Test Kitchen (requires sign up) has a version that brines the bean and simmers the beans in the oven; you can find it here. My short-hand recipe that I used is here.

We start off with some great vegetables including the usual mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery).

Tuscan Bean Stew ingredients

Tuscan Bean Stew ingredients

On the left side a a quart of home made chicken stock. I won’t lecture here today, but really, make your own – it’s probably the single best thing you can do to improve your recipes and it is so easy (okay I did lecture a bit).

We spend a few minutes chopping.

Tuscan Bean Stew mis en place

Tuscan Bean Stew mis en place

And we start to cook. First we gently sauté the pancetta in some olive oil (olive oil and pork fat! I’m in heaven!). I say gently because pancetta can go from golden to burnt in 30 seconds if the pan is too hot; so I spend a few more minutes with the heat on medium low to sneak up on the magic point. Then remove the pancetta (we’ll use it later) and add the mirepoix and sauté in that gorgeous fat until they are lightly browned.

Sautéing pancetta and vegetables for Tuscan Bean Stew

Sautéing pancetta and vegetables for Tuscan Bean Stew

At the end toss in the 8 cloves of smashed garlic until the room smells fantastic, then throw (well, gently place) everything but the tomatoes, kale, rosemary, and pancetta in a slow cooker. Because the beans were not soaked overnight we’ll need to cook for a long time; and to keep that heat on the beans. Place a cut piece of parchment paper on the surface of the liquid. You make the inner cover by tracing the inside rim of the slow cooker lid on the parchment paper and cutting inside the lines. We got a late start so we cooked the soup for six hours on high; alternatively you can cook it for 8-9 hours on low.

When the beans are tender remove and discard the parchment and stir in the kale, tomatoes, and sprig of rosemary. Turn the heat up to high, cover with the lid and cook for another 30-45 minutes.

Tomatoes and kale freshly added to the stew

Tomatoes and kale freshly added to the stew

At this point I realized corn bread would be delicious with this. We didn’t have corn meal but we did have masa harina, which is very fine and may have some lime in it. I Googled a recipe.

Corn bread ingredients

Corn bread ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another then combine,

Corn bread batter

Corn bread batter

Put in a buttered baking pan and after 20 minutes in a 450° oven, voilá.

Corn bread made from Masa Harina

Corn bread made from Masa Harina

Honestly it didn’t turn out that great; it tasted like slightly raised tortillas. I think the masa harina isn’t as good as corn flour for this recipe and maybe our baking powder has lost some of its oomph. It was good – just not great. Next time I’ll plan ahead a little better.

Mash a few of the beans on the side of the slow cooker and mix with the stew to thicken it up a bit. Then, dish up the stew, top with a few crunchy, salty bits of pancetta and drizzle with olive oil and dinner is served.

Dinner is served: Tuscan Bean Stew

Dinner is served: Tuscan Bean Stew

In this photo the pancetta is getting absorbed into the stew. I had things lined up for the picture but my flash picked that moment to run out of battery power. By the time I replaced the batteries and re-synced the flash with the sending unit the pancetta was sinking into the stew. It still tasted great.

Ranking: ★★★★

This recipe is perfect if you want bean stew but forgot to soak/brine the beans overnight. When I make this again I’ll brine the beans then cook in the pressure cooker for about 20 minutes on high, then add the kale, tomatoes, and rosemary and cook for another 5 minutes on high – basically the Kale and White Bean soup I linked to above adding the pancetta. Or if you really want to go crazy, try the version with andouille sausage I cooked up in 2010 (the pomegranate syrup is definitely optional). Options are good.

 

About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
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