We are half way between a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and the weather here in Alexandria, Virginia is dark and gloomy in the extreme. In another light it might be considered peaceful, encouraging us to rest after holiday travels and travails. Either way, it is the perfect weather for warm, hearty, nourishing stew.
This is definitely comfort food: bright, sweet tomatoes, spicy sausage, crisp rainbow chard and toothsome beans simmering into a succulent stew, and a poached egg, golden as afternoon sunshine, topping it all to warm you from the inside out.
To poach an egg, bring roughly two inches of water to a near-simmer. By this I mean that the water should be steaming and there should be lots of little bubbles in the base of the pan, but those bubbles should not break the surface. You do not want boiling water. To this water add 1-2 tsp. of vinegar (this will help keep your egg together) and the same amount of salt. Break your egg carefully into a small bowl, being careful not to puncture the clear sack (the thin albumen) surrounding the egg white. Keeping the egg white (and of course yolk) intact, assisted by the vinegar, should allow you to produce a beautifully compact poached egg. Now, lower your egg bowl over the hot water and gently pour the egg into the pan. Allow your egg to poach until all of the egg white has congealed and you can no longer see any transparency. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg directly to your stew. Enjoy!
Swiss Chard, White Bean and Chorizo Stew
3/4 lb. chorizo sausage
1 large bunch chard ( kale, spinach or another green), cleaned thoroughly and ribs and stems removed
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped shallots, about 4 medium
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup dry white wine
2 15-ounce cans (or about 3 3/4 cups) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Heat 1Tbs. of oil in a large pot. Add chorizo and brown fully. Remove chorizo from pot to colander/sieve to drain of grease.
Wipe out pot to dry it, and heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium. Add carrots, celery, shallots and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. Add wine (scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pot) and cook it until the liquid has reduced by three-fourths. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, a few pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add sausage, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add chard and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Add more broth if you’d like a thinner stew and adjust salt and pepper to taste.