Tuesday, December 6, 2011

White Bean & Andouille Sausage Stew from the Crock Pot

So, to get it out of the way (and, okay, because I'm really happy about it) I would like to share with you all that I've finished my master's degree! I am a Master of Science! What a world. And, since the next big steps for me are moving back to MA to be with Brady in two weeks and starting the hunt for my first real job in the New Year, for the sake of my short-term sanity I've chosen to focus on the Holidays with my family and on all the delicious things I can cook before that "What next?" moment comes. 

When I was a kid, I didn't like a lot of food. I know how unlikely that now seems, but for a while there around ages 8-10, one of the only things my Mom could make that I would always eat happily was her soup made with kale, sausage (maybe kielbasa?), and other delicious things that I have since forgotten. In a sense, I think the details of the recipe are less important than how gleeful I felt when I ate it, and how she enjoyed making something that I loved so much.

This recipe is a variation on a theme: I added white beans and tomatoes and swapped the kale for other veggies, but the substantial texture and subtle spiciness of the sausage remains. Of course, you could easily add chopped kale or collard greens in the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, but I am myself just coming off a bit of a kale binge (is that even a thing?) so I decided to go a slightly different route.

It is SUPER HARD to photograph steamy food.
About 1/4 lb. Andouille (or other smoked) sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1/4 cup dry white beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight, or 1 15 oz. can prepared white beans
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with or without green chiles
1 (above) can of water (if you are using dry beans, add another 1/2 can)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon mixed dry Italian herbs
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 dried chili pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

[Written for a 2 qt. crock pot]

1. Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on "low" for about 4-6 hours if you used prepared beans (more like 8-10 if you're using dry-soaked beans), or on "high" for about 4 (or more like 6 if, you guessed it, you're using dry beans), or some combination of high and low until beans and veggies are tender. The exact time will depend on your machine.
2. If necessary, remove the lid for the final hour or so of cooking to reduce liquids.
3. Remove bay leaf and serve with butter and a good crusty bread. (If you're looking for a super no-knead, healthy, rustic bread recipe to make with your soup, check this out).

The great thing about smoked sausage (besides the fact that it is sausage, and that it is smoked) is that since its fully cooked, you just need to be sure it is well-heated and it's ready to go. But better still, when you slow cook smoked sausage like this, it lends such great flavor to your soup without a ton of different seasonings. Win-win. As a different twist, you could use chorizo, the "with green chiles" tomato option, serve topped with fresh cilantro and some shredded cheese, and if you happen to have some corn chips on hand, you've made grown-up taco soup.

Maybe it is my imagination, but it seems to me that while I've been living alone (and especially now that it is winter) my posts have been mainly about easy, comforting food. In so doing, I hope I haven't strayed too far from the other part of my mission, of cooking and writing about healthy food. But, GK is also about my life, which heaven knows is a moving target. It's sort of crazy to me that I've been sharing my kitchen exploits with you all for the majority of my life as a graduate student. I guess the moral of the story is, life is short. Way too short not to eat well.

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