Slow Cooker White Beans with Greens and Italian Sausage

When fall arrives, and the weather starts to get cold, I crave stews.  Especially hearty, bean based stews, with big flavors.  This recipe fits the bill - white beans, sausage and kale make for a perfect dinner on a crisp, fall day.

This recipe was inspired by a recent article in Bon Appetit, on how to use a pot of white beans to make five different dinners.  While I loved the article, and enjoy reading Bon Appetit, I didn't post this article right away.  I think I'm having second-hand survivor's guilt.  Why did they close down Gourmet magazine?  Why?  Sure, the recipes in Bon Appetit were more practical.  But the food writing in Gourmet was second to none.  I loved the editorial direction that Ruth Reichl used.  Rest in peace, Gourmet.  Come back soon, if you can.*
*Hey, it worked for Christopher Kimball and Cook's Illustrated...
**PS: Mr. Kimball?  Interesting article, but I have to say that blaming people like me, who are some of your biggest fans, for the demise of a magazine that we loved dearly...well, maybe that isn't a good idea.  And the comment about "true expertise" at the end?  I'm self taught home cook, in large part thanks to the help of your magazine, and I'm proud of it.  Other than that, keep up the good work - love your magazines, TV shows, books... 
***PPS: Sorry about the digression.  That one's been bothering me for a while.
****PPPS: Update 11/4/09 - I think Russ Parsons hit the nail on the head about Gourmet's demise: Apres Gourmet: Food magazines find their niches [latimes.com]

Recipe: Slow Cooker White Beans with Greens and Italian Sausage
Equipment:
  • 6 quart or larger slow cooker (Crock Pot brand is fine, but I like my fancy ones from All-Clad and KitchenAid)

Ingredients:
Slow Cooker Beans
  • 1 lb. dry cannellini beans (or great northern, navy, or other white bean)
  • 1 medium onion, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (3-4" long)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 quarts water
Sausage, Aromatics and Greens
  • 1 lb. mild italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock (or water, or bean cooking liquid)
  • 2 pounds kale, stemmed, rinsed and sliced into (or other tough green, like turnip or mustard greens)
Garnishes
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Parmesan for grating (Pecorino romano is a good substitute)

Directions:
1. Cook the beans: Put the beans in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes, then drain. Transfer the beans to your slow cooker, and add the onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and water into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
*See my Basic Technique: Slow Cooker Beans for more details on this step.

2. Brown the sausage: Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, then add the sausage.  Cook for 3 minutes a side, or until well browned, then remove to a bowl.  (The sausage will not be cooked through at this point; we'll finish cooking it in step 5).

3. Saute the aromatics: If you have more than 1 tablespoon of fat left in the pot from the sausage, pour it off.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the olive oil, and heat until the oil starts shimmering. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Make a hole in the center of the pan and add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until you can smell the garlic, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.


4. Simmer the greens: Add the cup of stock to the pot, and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add the greens to the pot, cover, and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for ten minutes.

5. Simmer the sausage and beans: Pour the sausage (and any juices they released) into to the pot.  Add the cooked beans and just enough of the bean liquid to cover.  Stir to combine with the greens, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid off, scraping the bottom occasionally to prevent burning.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar as needed.
5. Serve: Serve, passing the balsamic vinegar and parmesan at the table, as a garnish.

Variations:
*Leftover beans - use 4-6 cups of frozen bean and their liquid. (You do make extra beans for later, don't you?)

*Canned beans - use three cans of cannellini beans, drained, instead of the slow cooker beans, and add chicken broth or water instead of the bean liquid.

*Tender greens - if you have chard or spinach, skip the simmering step; put the chopped tender greens in the pot, then immediately add the beans.

*Vegetarian - this makes a great vegetarian recipe if you skip the sausage, and use bean liquid or water instead of the chicken stock

Notes:
*Serve with a salad made of spring mix and a vinaigrette, and with some crusty bread for dipping.

*I think of this as Chili, Italian style.  It's the same technique I use when I make chili; I'm just using a different set of spices to give it an Italian flavor profile.

*I usually cook two pounds of beans when I make this recipe, use half, and freeze the other half for later use.

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts
Basic Technique: Slow Cooker Dried Beans
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Slow Cooker Caribbean Black Beans

Inspired by:
In Praise of Peasant Cooking: Lori De Mori [bonappetit.com]
The 7 Rules of the Italian Kitchen: Lori De Mori [bonappetit.com]

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2 comments:

A Year on the Grill said...

Thanks for the recipe, and thanks for the link. I just read Mr. Kimballs opinion pieces. I have read several takes on the demise of GOURMET. I struggle with publishing my recipes like they mean something. But as long as I don't pretend credentials I don't have, and only publish recipes I actually have made (instead of copying from a magazine), I have done my part to let the reader know what I am all about.

I think bloggers did have a great deal to do with the demise of Gourmet. But the world changes... We just have to be aware of the difference between Gourmet and the random blog posts. Find what we like and are able to more closely find what we can use. In some ways, better than the original (and in many ways, worse).

Anonymous said...

Who's your daddy?!!! What a delicious dish! Made it tonight. It was spectacular.

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