THE PERFECT WHITE BEAN AND CHARD STEW

“When something has been perfect…there is a tendency to try hard to repeat it.” (Edna O’Brien)

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I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am definitely one of “those girls” who needs to “calanderize” everything, or I most definitely will double-book or even worse–forget. So last Sunday when I looked at my upcoming week and realized I had a dinner or event every night after work, and even a 12-hour work day on Saturday, I knew I was going to need something to unwind on Sunday once it was all over. 

“Siri, please create an event for Sunday Night Stew on Sunday, November 17th from 5:30pm to 9:30pm." Yep, that happened. I’m owning it.

And after a ramen-y brunch with friends in Manhattan, I was excited to pick up a hearty loaf of Bourbon Wheat from my new favorite bakery, Scratchbread in Brooklyn, and retreat back to my little kitchen to begin chopping away and lock myself in for the evening. It was one heck of a week, and nothing is more perfect on a rainy Sunday than Smitten Kitchen’s "White Bean and Chard Stew.” It’s a recipe I’ve done multiple times and although it comes out a little different every time, it soothes the soul just the same. (And having leftovers for the next crazy week is amazing too!)

THE PERFECT WHITE BEAN AND CHARD STEW

Adapted by Smitten Kitchen from Dan Barber

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb Swiss Chard (Or: Kale, spinach or another leafy green works well), ribs and stems removed and cleaned
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup (5 ¼ oz.) Chopped Carrots
  • 1 Cup (5 oz.) Chopped Celery
  • 1 Cup (4 ¼ oz.) chopped shallots, about 4 Medium (Or: 1 Medium Onion)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2, 15 oz. Cans (about 3 ¾ cups) White Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Cups Chicken/Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup Pureed Tomatoes
  • Salt and Pepper, to season and taste
  • 3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
  • OPTIONAL: Spicy Italian Sausage, Chorizo (casing removed), or a Smokey Bacon

DIRECTIONS

  1. OPTIONAL: In a large pot (that you will use to cook the entire stew), heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the pan is hot, add your uncased sausage. Cook until brown.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook chard (or greens; no need to precook baby spinach) for one minute, then drain and squeeze out as much extra water as possible. Coarsely chop chard.
  3. When your sausage is nice and browned, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Return to your pot and add another tablespoon of olive oil to the sausage grease in your pan. Bring to a medium heat and add diced carrots, celery, shallots/onion and garlic. Sauté for 15 minutes. (Barber warns not to brown them but I didn’t mind a light golden color on them.)
  4. Add white wine (scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pot) and cook it until it reduced by three-fourths.
  5. Add beans, broth, tomato puree, a few pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes until the soup thickens.
  6. 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.
  7. Serve with your sausage and lightly drizzled with sherry vinegar.
  8. 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 if you like).

The core of Dan Barber and Deb Perelman’s recipe really is perfect….but it also allows you to get creative, if you so choose. It’s the right balance of beans and greens, and it is also a nice cross between a stew or hearty soup. I’ve follow Deb’s recipe line for line, but I’ve also improvised and swapped chard for kale, and added some spicy sausage or chorizo because you know about me and my meat. :) You can even add some bacon for a bit more salty, smoky flavor if you’re feeling oinky. The possibilities are endless, but the classic recipe will not let you down either. 

Maybe I should I make this calendar event “Reoccurring.” Tonight was pretty perfect.