Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Things To Do In The Kitchen Before You Die: A Recipe For Stew

I keep a growing list of kitchen inspirations that have changed my level of interest and intrigue for the better. These are things I pull out when I'm in a cooking rut, or need to be reminded of why I love discovery in the kitchen.  They are all kitchen-technique or ingredient related, although, hey, if you can find ways to use these techniques to spice up other areas of your life, rock on with your bad selves. (Have you seen the Nudie Foodies book that's coming out?)

Things To Do In The Kitchen Before You Die (Five of many)

1. Use pot liquor to cook with. Known as bean water to most of us, pot liquor is the broth that forms from simmering beans.  You are throwing away intense, natural flavor if you dump this water out. I let the sediment from pot liquor settle before giving it back into a dish, keeping the broth clear and cleaner-tasting.

2. Simmer the rind of Parmesan cheese into a dish, usually a stew or soup, to add a nutty flavor and earthier depth. Make a special place in the fridge for this rind, and when you create or have an opportunity to use it, open the door, thank yourself for saving this nub of potential deliciousness, and set about to your work. I have purchased a wedge of Parmesan solely for the rind before, but it is more ceremonious to wait until you've used the body to find a way to use the rind.

3. Once a month, spend a week using up all the leftovers in your fridge in recipes. Don't buy anything but ingredients necessary to completing this task. This is also known as "being kind to the environment" and "saving money". Depending on how terrible you want to feel about being a first-world consumer, you can read reports revealing between 30 and 50% of all household food is wasted. Here's a great blog on the matter: Wasted Food.

4. Learn how to make a killer souffle, and perfect your technique. A few years back, I went on a self-imposed souffle boot camp, making it (about 15 times) until I perfected it. My resulting recipe is remarkably close to Gale Gand's recipe. In fact, it is Gale Gand's recipe. I can make a killer double-rise cinnamon roll. Souffle, I borrow from the masters. (One guess what the next recipe post is going to be.)

5. Cook something that is the stereotype of your heritage. For me, that's easy. Brats and beer. Or, paying tribute to the other half of the family, Kielbasa and beer. Have a party around it. Celebrate it. Ask everyone to bring a typical dish from their people and an accompanying beverage. Think of the best-case scenario. Coq au vin and Dom Perignon! Worst case, probably Brats and beer.

There are more. These are the ones applicable this week in my kitchen. Enjoy!

Cannellini Bean, Tomato and Sausage Stew
Burwell General Store

This stew incorporates pot liquor, Parmesan rind and leftovers. It was built around a half pound of farmer's market Cannellini beans I had been meaning to try, and an open can of tomatoes. Add onion, sausage (I used Bratwurst but it didn't count it for the number five cook-your-heritage because I did not have an accompanying beer or Lederhosen to seal the deal), stock, and bingo, dinner.

Serves: 6

Total time: about three hours
Active time: about 45 minutes


For the beans:
1/2 pound Cannelini beans
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt

For the stew:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large sausage links, lightly seasoned, or spicy Italian if you want a kick, about a half a pound, crumbled
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes in sauce, chopped
8 oz. chicken stock (use all pot liquor if you don't have this)
3-4 cups pot liquor, reserved from beans
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, such as Muscovado
1 pound small yellow potatoes, like Russian yellow fingerlings, cut into 1" cubes
1 Parmesan rind, about 5" x 1" in length
salt and black pepper to taste

For the garnish:
chopped flat-leaf parsley
shredded Jack cheese

For the beans:
Rinse and sort beans. Add to water and very slowly simmer until soft but still grainy, about two hours, or until they are about 45 minutes from soft and creamy.  Add 2 tsp salt and continue simmering for ten minutes. Remove from heat, strain beans out of pot liquor, reserving four cups of the pot liquor for the stew. Place beans back in pot and set aside. 

For the stew:
In large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, pour a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and saute until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add sausage and saute until all sides are darkened. Transfer this mixture into the pot with beans. Add tomatoes and sauce, bay, sugar, potatoes and Parmesan rind, and add pot liquor to cover, adjusting liquid per your desire for a thin or thick stew and bring back to a simmer. Let simmer for 45 minutes, season with black pepper and more salt if necessary, and ladle into bowls, top with fresh flat leaf parsley and shredded Jack cheese and serve with bread on the side, taking care not to transfer Parmesan rind or bay leaf.

Notes: I passed on other herbs I would normally add opting to let the earthy, nutty notes of the Parmesan rind come forward.  This stew freezes really well.


  1. I love this for such practical sense reasons though admit a bit disappointed at the pot liquor. I was hoping for something with Jack Daniels. :)

    The Parmesan trick? So perfect isn't it? I am proud of being the use it up; wear it out type and hate that for so many years I just pitched the rind. I use it in soups and pasta and to assuage the guilt of my previous waste I think it is the single tip I try to share the most!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration Chris:) I am pulling a couple rinds out of the freezer where I accumulate them and using them in stew tonight:) YUM!

  3. This looks awesome. I have a list that I started, a sort of kitchen bucket list, you're reminding me that I need to revisit it. :)

  4. This stew is really good! I tried one tablespoon of sugar and found it was a little too sweet. I would have added some cayenne pepper, but I was out so I used a squirt of sriracha instead. The bit of heat was a nice touch to an already excellent stew. Thanks!

  5. Thanks, Devon! Noted on the sugar! I used muscovado, which doesn't taste as sweet (to me) as regular brown sugar, or refined sugar. Maybe that was it.

  6. LOVE the Parmesan Rind idea! I've always felt like a heel when I toss that in the trash; glad to now have a use for it. Thanks.

  7. Excellent tips! I always feel bad when I throw away the bean water:)
    As for leftovers, I love the days when I clean out my fridge and recycle the sad little remnants hiding in the corners.
    Parmesan rinds are wonderful - it's just that I always forget to use them, and now I have several baggies in the freezer that beg to be used!
    I really enjoy your writing:)

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