It was cold and rainy in Manhattan yesterday and after a day spent wandering around the Chocolate Show and the Asian Contemporary Art Fair, I wanted something warm and fulfilling that wouldn’t take a lot of effort to make. Thoughts of Cassoulet and Feijoada both popped into my head but those aren’t the kind of things you start making at 5pm if you want to eat it before breakfast the next morning.
I picked up a ham hock, some Italian sausage and lacinato kale on the way home with some vague idea of an intensely flavorful stew I wanted to make. I had some duck stock in the fridge and a tub of demi glace that I figured I’d use to give it that extra oomph of a long-braised dish.
While I’m not sure of the exact origins of the term “peasant stew”, almost every country has a version and it typically involves adding random cuts of cheap meat to a pot with a starch (beans, potatoes, etc) and cooking it for a long time. While my addition of demi glace does make it a little fancier, it’s still a humble dish at heart and the best part is that it doesn’t require much effort. This whole thing came together with the use of a pot, a cutting board, a plate, a knife and a wooden spoon and after about 2 hours of unattended time on the stove, the meat was falling off the hock and it was ready to eat.
Whole Foods had some spring onions that looked like they were just plucked from the earth, so I roasted a few and placed them on top of the stew for a little color. As it turns out, they were incredibly sweet and flavourful, so it ended up complimenting the rich flavours of the stew nicely. As a whole the dish was lighter than Cassoulet or Feijoada but it had a similar intensity of flavour. The veggies and herbs helped offset the heaviness of the meat and overall the dish was surprisingly well balanced. With a hunk of multi-grain bread, it made for a great warming meal that’s now going on my winter rotation.
What’s your favourite stew for cold weather?
3/4 lbs pork sausage cut into pieces
1 ham hock
1 large onion diced
2 small celery stalks diced
4 C duck stock (or chicken stock)
1 Tbs chopped rosemary
4-5 sprigs thyme stems removed
1 tsp lavender
1 bay leaves
1-2 Tbs demi glace (optional)
1 16 oz can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
1/2 bunch of kale shredded
4 spring onions trimmed (or ramps or baby leeks)
Heat a medium stock pot over medium-high heat and add the sausage and ham hock (if the hock doesn’t fit, you can brown them separately). Brown the sausage on one side the flip and brown on the other for the ham hock just turn it every few minutes to get it as brown as you can. You should have a nice layer of dark brown fond on the pan as well as some oil from the sausage. Transfer the hock and sausage to a plate and set aside.
Add the celery and onions to the pot and saute until they are soft and starting to caramelize. If they look kind of dry add some olive oil to help the process along. Add the stock, herbs, and demi glace and return the sausage and ham hock to the pot. Grind some black pepper on top then cover the pot and let it simmer over low heat for 1.5 to 2 hours.
When the ham is fork tender and falling off the bone, transfer it to a clean cutting board then add the kale and beans to the stew. Carefully remove the bones from the hock and chop the meat up into rough chunks. Add it back to the stew, cover and and continue simmering for another 20-30 minutes or until the kale is tender.
To roast the onions, just cover them in a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I just stick them on a piece of foil and put them in my toaster oven for a few minutes on “toast”, but you could just stick them under your broiler for a few minutes as well. To plate, just laddle the stew into a bowl, top with an onion and grind a little pepper on top. Serve with a crusty baguette.
edit: this is getting submitted to Marx Food’s Comfort Food Recipe Contest.