Slow ‘Fest Fix

As we approach Halloween and the weather gets blustery my appetite naturally shifts to heartier, stew-like meals.  Here’s one that shows up at some point, especially if I haven’t had my Oktoberfest fix.

For this stew we start with some big flavors, all which benefit from a slow cook.  I doubt there is a sausage out there that I don’t love – just throw in a little ground meat, and lace it with plenty of garlic, spices, and salt.  In this case, perhaps begin with a beefy sausage or a good bockwurst. It’s a matter of taste, but here the average kielbasa tends to fight with its mates.

Throw in a few red potatoes and add a really good sauerkraut. If it’s a canned sauerkraut, I usually rinse and drain it. There are some spectacular fermented ones in the market so it’s fun to consider one of them. They usually have so much going on, it’s a shame to rinse it all away, so give it a taste and see what you think.  I opted for a naturally fermented garlic and dill variety and hit mine with a light spray, but retained most of the brine, garlic, and herbs.

All of these characters work off of each other. The potatoes absorb and tame the sauerkraut, the sauerkraut balances the sausage’s richness—and so on. I also added some carrot chunks and sliced fresh cabbage for good measure.  The carrots bring a bit of sweetness and the cabbage isn’t noticeable unless you are looking.  It blends right in with the sauerkraut and gives it a little more structure.

Like crafting a fine wine, all of this requires and little time in the pot to mellow and bring these big flavors together.  If you are impatient, give it a couple of hours in a low oven, on a low simmer on the stove, or mindlessly in a crock pot or slow cooker for up to 6 hours.

Enjoy with a grainy mustard and a good rye or other hearty bread.

Slow Sausage, Sauerkraut & Potatoes

Ingredients
2 tsp olive oil
12-ounce beefy sausage, cut into chunks
½ onion, sliced
½ tsp each caraway seed and crushed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
16-ounce package sauerkraut, rinse and drain if very salty
5 red potatoes, scrub and quarter
2 tsp olive oil
12-ounce beefy sausage, cut into chunks
½ onion, sliced
½ tsp each caraway seed and crushed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
16-ounce package sauerkraut, rinse and drain if very salty
5 red potatoes, scrub and quarter

Instructions

  1. Brown the sausage in the oil on all sides. Add the onion and spices, toss to lightly color.
  2. Add the sauerkraut, then tuck potatoes into the niches in the pot, add up to a cup of water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Set to low slow cook for a minimum of 2 hours, or in crock pot for 6 hours. Adjust seasoning and serve in bowls. Serves 4 or more

Optional: add 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks with potatoes. Include ¼ head cabbage cut into 2″ strips along with sauerkraut.

A Prelude to St. Paddy’s Day: Sauerkraut Stew

Every now and then I crave sauerkraut, and it doesn’t have to be an artisan-style fermented quality; good old Steinfeld’s pickled cabbage is just fine with me.  Perhaps it’s a strange and sudden precursor to St. Paddy’s Day, but I need my cabbage.  The corned beef will just have to wait.

Sauerkraut stew (640x480)
Root Vegetables with Mixed Sausage Stew with Sauerkraut

When this happened on a recent rainy day, I looked around to see what might work without a dash to the market. I always seem to have sausage odds and ends in the freezer, random unused portions from other projects.  Lucky me, I came up with a nice sized link of kielbasa and a couple of bratwursts.

While the sausage defrosted, I heated up the Le Creuset pot and quickly sautéed an onion and a clove of garlic.  In went a chopped carrot, a turnip, and some creamer potatoes, halved.  The sausages were cut into chunks and tossed into the pot to pick up a little color.  Once that happened, I added a cup or so of beef stock to deglaze the pot and create a broth.

For seasoning I dug out my jar of dried juniper berries that had shifted to an obscure corner of the spice cabinet from lack of use. There’s nothing like it, and it’s precisely for times like this that I am so happy for juniper berries.  I do a quick sniff test and grab a few and drop them into the pot—love their resin-ish smell.  A little rosemary, a bay leaf, and a few grinds of black pepper are added to the mix.

I rinsed and drained the sauerkraut.  It’s not something I do without thinking twice, because it seems such a waste.  But in this case, there’s a lot going on and it’s just as well to knock it down a notch. Into the pot it goes and it is all brought to a simmer; then it’s covered with a lid and left to simmer for 30 minutes.

Clearly this amalgamation is not totally Irish, but it is doesn’t matter.  It does the trick and incredibly, and there’s more good news.  Once the flavors blend overnight, the sauerkraut mellows a bit, and it is even better.

Root Vegetables and Mixed Sausage Stew with Sauerkraut

Ingredients
2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and in slivers
1 carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
1 turnip, peeled, cut into chunks
9 oz. creamer potatoes, cut in half if large
12 oz. kielbasa sausage, cut into chunks
8 oz. bratwurst, cut into chunks
1-2 cups beef stock, as needed
6-8 juniper berries
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper
16 oz. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

Directions

In a heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. When aromatic, add the carrot, turnip, potatoes and toss well.  Increase heat to medium high, add the sausages and lightly brown to take on color.

Deglaze with beef stock, add the seasonings, and the drained sauerkraut.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover for 30 minutes.  Adjust seasoning and serve in bowls.  Serves 4.

 

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.