High on the list of dishes I’d like to be able to make without a second thought, a special trip to a special store and that I hope to still be cooking when we spend our days in his-and-hers creaking rocking chairs, lamenting that Jacob never calls us anymore, is a hearty white bean stew.
And never has my need to get a recipe like this down been more urgent, given the following confluence of events: 1. A kid who is getting more and more into rejecting food, but shows a keen interest in beans and anything cooked in a tomato-y sauce. 2. A mama who is near the end of her tether trying to fit an impossible amount of ingredients in her 2 (yes, two) kitchen cabinets and revels in a recipe that will use up multiple cans of beans, a box of tomatoes and a carton of broth and 3. A website audience that will likely hightail it out of here if I present you with one more recipe in a row that hinges on cream and booze, butter and cheese, butter and sprinkles or butter and wine. It’s January, after all, and we have resolutions to attend to! Resolutions that probably do not include butter… That’s for February, after all.
I know that unless you are a tomato and white bean junkie, as I am, the prospect of a bowl of sloshy stew built on their foundation doesn’t sound very appealing. But what transforms it, I’d argue, is the presentation. I like to place a thick slice of well-toasted, garlic-rubbed bread underneath, ladle the stew over it and finish it with a softly poached egg. A few gratings of parmesan or romano might also be welcome on top, but I don’t think it needs either to be tasty. Mostly, this is a cozy meal, the perfect antidote to a month of excess without feeling excessively earnest. It’s still 36 degrees outside, afterall, last week’s blizzard remains in filthy gray islands of snow (albeit a little prettier in backyards) and there are more than three months until spring. Hearty is key.
Chard and White Bean Stew
Adapted a bit generously from Dan Barber
I started with a recipe from Dan Barber for a kale and white bean stew, even though I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I have yet to get over my dislike of kale, despite a brief period of acceptance when I learned how to make it into chips. I used chard instead, but you could use any green you’ve got, even spinach. (Though if you are unfamiliar with chard but like spinach, trust me, you’ll love chard.) I also only used 2/3 of the greens suggested, because I really want this to be a white bean, not greens, stew. Then, I swapped some of the vegetable broth for pureed tomatoes, because that’s what I think a bean stew needs. I dialed back the broth a bit, because I don’t like soupy stews… Oh, and I added some weights and then (typical!) forgot I was weighing ingredients so only some are listed. Sorry about that.
Finally, I cooked the wine down more than suggested because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t accidentally going to booze up the kid so that he might accidentally get a good night’s sleep. Because that would be terrible, you know?
1 pound Swiss chard (can also swap kale, spinach or another green), ribs and stems removed and cleaned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (5 1/4 ounces) chopped carrots
1 cup (5 ounces) chopped celery
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) chopped shallots, about 4 medium
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 15-ounce cans (or about 3 3/4 cups) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (or more to taste) vegetable broth
1 cup pureed tomatoes (from a can/carton/your jarred summer supply)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Toasted bread slices, poached eggs (tutorial), chopped herbs such as tarragon, parsley or chives or grated Parmesan or Romano to serve (optional)
Bring medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook chard (or any heavier green; no need to precook baby spinach) for one minute, then drain and squeeze out as much extra water as possible. Coarsely chop chard.
Wipe out medium pot to dry it, and heat olive oil over medium. Add carrots, celery, shallots and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. Barber warns not to brown them but I didn’t mind a light golden color on them. Add wine (scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pot) and cook it until it reduced by three-fourths. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, a few pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add chard and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Add more broth if you’d like a thinner stew and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Serve as is drizzled with sherry vinegar. Or you can ladle the stew over thick piece of toasted country bread or baguette that has been rubbed lightly with half a clove of garlic, top that with a poached egg and a few drops of sherry vinegar and/or some grated cheese.