The other night I went to the store hungry, but with no idea of what to cook, always a dangerous state to find myself in when entering a store filled with food as it usually results in me reaching for anything and everything I see. But sometimes it's fun to impulsively grab things and throw a meal together without any plans of what to make. I filled my basket with potatoes, pearl onions, and a beautiful bunch of kale. At home I had a can of beans and some leftover hot Italian sausage links. I put them all together and ended up with some hearty ingredients for a winter stew.
I couldn't even remember the last time I had a proper stew. It's a shame because they are extremely economical, healthy, and fill you up when you need it most. Anything that results in a lot of leftovers and uses up things lying around your pantry or hiding in the corners of your fridge is never a bad thing. This includes all those odd bits of cheese lurking in your refrigerator drawers. Rinds of hard cheeses such as parmesan, dry jack, or asiago, are a great way to thicken soups and stews. My grandmother always put these pieces in her incredible minestrone soup. After trimming off the rind or any mold, drop the hard end into the stew and, not only will it thicken nicely, it will impart an incredible flavor as well. Make this stew on a cold night with a glass of red wine and some crusty bread and it's sure to warm you from the inside out!
SAUSAGE, KALE, & POTATO STEW
3 tbsp. olive oil
5 or 6 sausage links, about 10-12 oz. (I used hot Italian sausages)
12 to 14 pearl onions (fresh or frozen), chopped in half, see notes below (or 1 yellow onion, chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups (48 oz.) chicken or vegetable stock
End of Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese), rind removed (or 1/2 cup grated)
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1½ lb. (about 5) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into pieces
1- 15 oz. can white beans (such as Great Northern or Navy), rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the sausages and cook until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes (depending on the size of your sausages). Remove sausages and set aside to cool.
Drain off some of the fat in the pot. Add the onions and sauté until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another minute. Immediately pour in the stock, add the cheese-end and rosemary. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pot and season the broth to taste with salt and pepper.
Add potatoes to the pot, bring liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer potatoes for 10 minutes or until cooked through.
Add the kale and beans and continue simmering for another 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the sausage links into 1-inch pieces. Once the kale is properly cooked and tender, remove the cheese-end and discard. Return the sausage to the pot along with any drippings. Taste to adjust seasonings and serve hot.
- If using fresh pearl onions, you'll need to remove their skins. Start by trimming each end of the onions with a pairing knife. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove using a spider and transfer to an ice bath to halt their cooking. Their skins should slide off with ease.
- If you want a thicker base for your stew, simply mash up some of the potatoes with a wooden spoon. Their starch will help thicken the stew.