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The wonder food

by VM Brasseur on January 15th, 2006

Many of the FirstStep readers are already familiar with my infatuation with the lowly legume.

Oh, the mighty bean! So versatile! So tasty in all its many guises! So pathetically easy to prepare! Usually, that is. This afternoon I threw together something a bit more involved, but it was worth the effort.

My current favorite bean preparation is to sautee some garlic in a decadent amount of extra virgin olive oil. Once it’s soft and slightly golden, take some pre-cooked beans (saved with their beany cooking juices, of course) and dump the whole lot into the pan. Throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme and some salt. Cook until the juices are reduced. Remove the thyme stems. Grind on a little pepper. Serve. Easy and takes only about 15 minutes.

Today I didn’t go that route. Perhaps it was the chill in the air outside, but today I needed to fire up the oven and let it run all afternoon to produce my dinner. Dinner (and maybe lunch) for the rest of the week, actually. This dish was inspired by the 1.5 lbs of pork short ribs which I found in the freezer and the locally made Portuguese wine sausage which my little grocery happened to have in the butcher case today. It’s more than a little bit of a hat-doffing to a traditional cassoulet but with a fraction of the work and (believe it or not) time required.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Grab your big ol’ handy Le Creuset dutch oven. Add a little oil and heat. Once hot, brown the short ribs and then set aside. Now brown the sausage and set aside with the short ribs. Deglaze the pan with some red wine and let it reduce. Add more oil and bring up to temperature. Sautee a generous quantity of mirepois (diced onions, carrots and celery). Add about 15 peeled whole garlic cloves. Now dump in a pound of dried beans. White, pink, whatever. I used European Soldier Beans from Rancho Gordo because that’s what I had. Stir things up nicely, then place the short ribs back into the pot. Add water to about an inch or two above the stuff in the pot, three bay leaves and a fair amount of salt. Return to the burner and bring just to a boil. Cut the sausages in half on the bias and add to the pot. Put the top on and put the whole lot into the oven. Set the timer for 3.5 hours and fuggedaboutit. Walk away. I took a shower, did my filing, some dishes, and finally hung up my new kitchen stereo. After about two and three quarter hours, take the pot out of the oven and stir it. Remove the short ribs from the pot, let cool for a sec and then separate the meat from the bones, fat and other icky bits. Stir the meat into the pot. Leave the pot out while you make two cups of fresh breadcrumbs. Cover the beans with the breadcrumbs, dot generously with butter, and return uncovered to the oven. Crank up the heat to 400° and walk away for a bit longer. After another 45 minutes or so, it should be golden brown and crispy on top with little bubbles of beany joy escaping from around the edges.

Serve, eat and enjoy. A warmed slice of whole grain bread and some steamed veggies drizzled with EVOO and spritzed with lemon juice rounded things out nicely. The Portuguese wine sausage, with which I had no previous experience, was a surprise. It was slightly spicy, which was expected, but it has the soft consistency of something like meatloaf. It was very good, just not in the way anticipated.

Mmm…warm squishy tasty beany goodness. Sure, it took about four hours. But I wasn’t planning on leaving the house anyway and this way I have divine instant lunches all week.

From → Food, Recipe

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