Wednesday, November 3, 2010

White bean ragu, the perfect side

Ok, so I love roast chicken. I would eat roast chicken, in some incarnation, on a daily basis, given the opportunity. The weather is finally starting to cool down in Austin and as a result, my culinary fires begin to burn bright. I want to cook hearty, rib sticking, hearty food.

One of my issues with my desire to perpetually indulge in roast chicken is the sides. I will happily eat my roast chicken without a side but really, who on earth wants to do that?

Sure, mashed potatoes are the foods of the gods particularly when drowned in a rich chicken gravy. Sometimes, though, you need to shake up the menu. Enter my delicious white bean ragu. This is just as happy as a side as a main course. I ate an enormous serving of a version of this when I was in Brighton, England, a million years ago and it's never left me.

I roasted a couple of chickens - NEVER just roast one! and needed a little something to go with/under it. This is also as ridiculously cheap as it gets, the beans were on sale last week at 2/$1.00! so with the addition of one piece of each vegetable that everyone already has in the fridge, the cost is maybe $1.50? It makes 6 servings as a side and way more servings if you add more broth and eat it as a soup! Do the math on this and rejoice!


2 cans white beans
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 small leek (because I had one and I love them; don't not make this for lack of a leek)
1 onion
2 pieces of bacon
water or chicken broth
chopped parsley (I buy 2 bunches of fresh parsley a week at .50 and keep them in a vase in my kitchen, partially to use daily and partially to fulfill my desire for greenery that I ultimately kill off, these only have to last a week and I can eat them! a win win!)
salt, pepper, thyme

Chop all the vegetables and leave them aside for a moment. Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until almost crisp in a large saucepan. Toss the vegetables in and fry them around for a bit. We don't want color here, just soften them and release their flavor.

When the vegetables are softened, some pepper and some thyme and toss around. Add the two cans of white beans, drained, and enough water or chicken broth to cover by a couple of inches. Leave to simmer for an hour. Stir it occasionally, careful not to mash up the beans. Salt at the end if needed. Add the chopped parsley at the end as well so it's green and yummy looking.

It should be thick enough to not run all over the plate but thin enough to be smooth and velvety. This is a crazy dish that, as I said, can be thinned to be a soup, cooked down to be an even thicker side or you can puree into a soup as well, it if you're into that sort of thing.

This really is quite delicious, I serve it in big bowls with shredded roast chicken on top and a drizzle of the liquid from the roasting pan. Welcome to fall, you're going to love this!


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