Cook’s Illustrated (March & April 2008)
We noticed the other day that almost every recipe we've written about so far has been some shade of brown. I promise we cook colorful meals, too!
But this Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew is not one of them.
The recipe -- as with all recipes from Cook's -- is accompanied by a lengthy explanation of the methods including an experiment between simmering beans on the stovetop vs. in the oven. [Spoiler alert: Near-simmered in the oven wins.]
The base recipe calls for pancetta, kale/collard greens and rosemary. However, we chose one of the slight variations included in the recipe, which substitutes sweet Italian sausage, Savoy cabbage and oregano for these ingredients. We had trouble finding Savoy cabbage and instead used a basic green cabbage. We also decided to double the recipe and freeze the second batch.
Doubling the recipe turned out to be a great idea, since we have loved eating this stew! Thawing a couple bowls out has made for a quick and extremely satisfying mid-week meal several times in the past few weeks.
The recipe gives the option of serving the stew on toasted slices of country white bread, which was appealing to us, but we decided to forgo this step. It sounded good but unnecessary and we feared that the bread might make the stew too "heavy."
The verdict? Run -- don't walk -- to your local grocery and buy the ingredients to make this stew. It is hearty and flavorful, and the combination of the beans, cabbage and sausage is wonderful. Freezing the second batch in small, portable containers has been very handy and we've eaten the stew, on and off, for three weeks now, and actually just finished the final serving last night.
Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew with Sausage and Cabbage
Cook’s Illustrated (March & April 2008)
Note from Cook's: We prefer the creamier texture of beans soaked overnight for this recipe. If you're short on time, quick-soak them: Place the rinsed beans in a large heat-resistant bowl. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Pour the water over the beans and let them sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans well before proceeding with step 2. For a more substantial dish, serve the stew over toasted bread.
1 pound dried cannellini beans (2 cups) rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage (casings removed)
1/2 medium head Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 spring fresh oregano
1 large onion, chopped medium (1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs, cut ingo 1/2 inch pieces (3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes drained and rinsed
Ground black pepper
8 slices country white bread, each 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)
1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Cook sausage, in olive oil, breaking meat into small pieces with wooden spoon until it loses its raw color, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate and place in refrigerator. Add onion, celery, and carrots to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Remove pot from oven and stir in sausage, cabbage and tomatoes. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
4. Remove pot from oven and submerge oregano sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and oregano sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.