Thursday, June 4, 2015

Food To Mourn By

My cooking for the past several weeks has gone to pot. I have done quick and easy, not long and careful, ever since we lost Cora. So, there wasn't much to show you or to talk about for a while there. But, it helped to babysit our neighbor's dog, Sandy, for a few days while she took her mother away for a long weekend of girlie fun and, slowly, we are starting to expect a quiet house with no ecstatic greeting when we return home. It's a cliché, but life does go on.

We have been having a series of cool, windy, overcast days when the fog clears only briefly in the early afternoon. I'd normally bitch about that but it suited our mood, so what the heck. It gave me an excuse to dive back into comfort foods when we really needed comfort. One of the best I made was Jacques Pépin's White Bean and Ham Stew. Called "garbure," it's a hearty dish from Southwestern France. The link above will take you to the real recipe - I made some changes since I didn't have all the ingredients nor the energy to go out and get them. I think M. Pépin's original recipe, which I used as an outline for how to proceed, would probably be better than mine, but even my bastardized version is tasty and deeply satisfying.

I started with dried beans and, seeking to dispel some of the inevitable gas, soaked them in two changes of water over two days before composing the stew in my crockpot. I had a ham hock in the freezer, so I thawed that and used only the one in a large pot of stew; happily, it flavored the entire pot with smoky goodness. 

I wouldn't have thought of adding potatoes or root veggies to a bean dish, but we liked all the bland flavors and varying textures. Tasty, but not challenging, it is good food to mourn by.

White Bean and Ham Stew with Cheesy Toasts

1.5 cups small white beans, such as Navy beans, sorted and rinsed, and soaked for two days (If you don't have two days, just cook the beans longer in more water)
1 smoked ham hock
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 large onion, cut into wedges through the stem end
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" chunks
8-10 radishes, large ones halved
6-8 small round potatoes, large ones halved or quartered
Salt, pepper

Rustic bread, toasted
1 clove garlic, cut in half sideways
Swiss or gruyere cheese

After soaking the beans for a day or two, pour off the soaking water and add the beans, the ham hock, and water to barely cover to your crock pot. Cook on high until the beans begin to be tender - mine took four hours - then remove the ham hock to a cutting board, peel off the skin and discard, and chop the meat into small, pieces, discarding bones and gristly bits. Return the meat to the bean pot with the vegetables and continue cooking until the beans and veggies are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toast slices of a rustic bread such as Pain au Levain, rub with cut side of the garlic, and top with cheese. Place them on a baking sheet and run them briefly under the broiler to melt the cheese. 

Scoop the bean stew into shallow bowls and serve with warm toasts.


Blogger Diane said...

So poignant. I have been thinking of you and your loss. Clouds and comfort food to ease the pain are good.

Friday, June 12, 2015  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Thanks, Diane. It does get better.

Sunday, June 14, 2015  

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