Hassle-free: Wintery Country Stew

There are a few vegetables that I generally have on hand.  Onions, carrots, and potatoes are some of my favorite kitchen stalwarts and it’s evident that many cuisines including the United Kingdom, much of Europe, and other countries scattered around the globe agree.

As well they should:  these and other root vegetables are easy to grow, they store well, and can be used in many different styles and fashions. There is one dish from the southwest of France that is a glorious reminder of how a few basic ingredients can be supremely elevated through thoughtful preparation.garbure

Garbure is a thick country-style stew made with root vegetables, white beans, and well-laced with assorted meats such as duck confit, smoked pork, and/or sausage.

root cellar

root cellar

As with most country cooking, much depends on what is seasonal and on hand.  Along with the above listed trio, cabbage and perhaps a parsnip would be included in the typical garbure.

Before refrigeration was readily available, these vegetables were safely over-wintered in some version of the trusty root cellar.

Fortunately, in today’s kitchen we are no longer as limited with supplies and produce as we were once, and we have plenty of choices.  Instead of grabbing some of that duck confit we handily packed away, or relying on the ends of the ham bone, or hacking off a few links from the dried sausage hanging from the rafters, we can simplify our preparations—direct from the supermarket.

For four or more servings, a couple of thick slices of smoked ham and few links of first rate sausage will suffice. The average suburbanite no longer needs the massive amount of meat once required to fuel our bodies.

Although there are days when we may want an all day project, even our garbure no longer requires that much effort.  We can begin with a good quality prepared chicken stock and throw in some of that dwindling supply of onions, carrots and potatoes, plus a parsnip or a turnip, a little cabbage, and perhaps a green pepper. Instead of soaking and simmering a huge pot of dried cannellini beans, all we need is a 14-ounce can of cooked beans.

gratineeOnce the meat permeates the stew and and it is so thick that a spoon nearly stands upright in it, we’ll finish it all off with an artisan quality country bread, nicely toasted—for the glorious cheesy gratinée that graces the top.

Yes, on a cold winter’s day, we can have a superb country stew—one with big, earthy flavors—and we can have our meal ready and waiting in less than two hours.

Vegetable Stew with Cannellini Beans and Mixed Pork

Inspired by Jacques Pepin’s White Bean and Ham Stew, Essential Pepin

Ingredients

2 qts chicken stock
1 lg carrot, peeled, medium chop
1 lg parsnip, peeled, medium chop
1 lg onion or leek, well cleaned, medium chop
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 rib celery with leaves, small chop
2 med red potatoes, scrubbed, large chop
1 poblano or green pepper, seeded, medium chop (optional)
1/2 head cabbage (savoy is good), cored, medium chop
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
salt and pepper
8 ozs thick sliced ham, large chop
12 ozs smoked sausage, kielbasa or other, sliced
14 ozs cannellini beans, cooked, drained and rinsed
1 med boule or other artisan bread
2 c Gruyere or other melting cheese, grated
Accompaniment:  1/2 c pepperoncini pepper, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat chicken stock, add carrot through the cabbage; add the bay, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover lightly and simmer for about 40 minutes.
  2. Add the ham, sausage and cannellini beans and simmer another 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and stew-like and the vegetables are meltingly tender. Adjust seasoning.
  3. Fill oven proof bowls and top with lightly toasted 1/4″ sliced sourdough or other artisan bread, sprinkle with Gruyere or other melting cheese and broil until bubbly. Pass chopped pepperoncini. Serves 4 or more.
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