Cold-Weather Northeastern American Comfort Food

Thanks to Tim Sturges, guest chef
and author of this post!

Collard Garbanzo Sausage Stew

  • ½ lb. (med-large) yellow onion
  • ¾ – 1 lb. crimini mushrooms (select mushrooms with white undersides that haven’t separated from the stem)
  • ¾ – 1 lb. pork sausage (links or ground)
  • ½ lb. fennel bulb
  • 1 lb. celery
  • 1 lb. carrots
  • 1 ½ lb. sweet potato
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ½ lb. (large) bunch collard greens
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
  • bay leaf
  • rosemary
  • dried chili
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • Aleppo pepper

Since the weather is cooling down, I have become fixated on cold-weather northeastern American comfort food. Nothing beats the cold like a voluminous, and piping-hot serving of stew.

I thought first of a more conventional stew, like sausage white bean and kale, but I wanted to experiment a bit, so I added and replaced some ingredients. Garbanzos seemed like a logical alternative to the white beans, and I am partial to collard greens. They are handily on par with kale, in terms of nutrient density and texture, but I too often see them prepared severely overcooked, their texture subdued, and their flavor obliterated by ham (although that can be a beautiful thing in its own regard).

I also wanted to start from scratch as much as possible, so this recipe forgoes the less labor-intensive option of using a store-bought stock for the base, and begins with the preparation of a vegetable stock by first roasting vegetables in the oven. Also, I used dried garbanzos, which required me to soak them overnight, although there is a method for speed-soaking them, or you may choose to use canned.

Start by chopping the celery and carrots, sweet potato, and fennel bulb into approx ¼” long pieces, halve the cherry tomatoes, and place these ingredients in a roasting pan. Be sure to remove any green stalk and frond from the fennel bulb, and retain for Jessica to play and stage shots with. Also, remove the leaves from the stems from the collards, chop the stems into ¼” pieces, and add them as well.

Thankfully, Jessica pointed out to me at this point that I was overfilling my roasting pan, and it is desirable for the vegetables to roast, rather than steam. Had she not been there, I would totally have crammed them all into my 3-quart pan. If you find you are overfilling your pan, use a second one, or a larger one, or remove a portion of the vegetables and freeze for later use. You do not want more than two layers of vegetables on top of each other.

Add three garlic cloves to the roasting pan, then coat, but do not drown, the vegetables in olive oil, toss, and season with salt, fresh ground black pepper, rosemary, and Aleppo pepper (red pepper flakes will do if you do not have Aleppo pepper on hand). Insert baking pan into an oven, preheated to 450 degrees F (230 C). Remove the vegetables every 15 min and stir them, making sure to scrape the sides of the baking pan as you do. That brown crunchy stuff on the sides pays big dividends!

After you put the vegetables in to roast, wash the wild rice with cold water, then add to six cups boiling water. Reduce to low boil after 2 min and leave for approx 45 min. Kernels will be tender and split when done. Drain in a colander if necessary, and set aside.

While the vegetables are roasting, and the rice is cooking, dice the onion, and begin caramelizing in a frying pan over medium heat. I prefer cast iron in general, but especially for this purpose. Do not stir the onions. Do not raise the temperature. You will be tempted to stir them and raise the temperature. Don’t do either. If you stir them they will cook down to an uninspiring floppy translucence. If you raise the temperature you will burn them. In fact, as I was caramelizing them myself, I got impatient and raised the temperature. As the pan started to smoke, Jessica said to me “I want to get a shot of the onions perfectly caramelized,” which was no longer possible. Although I burned the onions, we did discover that this recipe is pretty forgiving, so don’t sweat it if you do burn them, but if you can, it’s better to exercise patience; nicely caramelized onions are worth it!

Slice (or separate) the sausage into ½” chunks, and add to frying pan. You can squeeze it out of the casing if you like, but I prefer to keep it in. We used Piccinini Bros Hot Italian Pork Sausage, although I was tempted to use a lamb merguez. Slice the mushrooms, and add once the sausage is nearly cooked. Cook mushrooms down, being sure to do lots of scraping and stirring. There is nothing disposable in that pan. Be sure to test your poison-test your mushroom, sausage and onion combo, for safety, and not because it’s amazing and you could totally stop right here and eat the contents of that frying pan, over some toasted bread or something. Remind yourself that you are making stew, and losses due to too much poison-testing will adversely impact the stew’s spirit-healing magick.

Add garbanzos to bottom of stock pot (I used a lobster pot), cover with water to approx twice the height the garbanzos, and bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer after 2 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, the sausage, onion and mushroom combo, chopped parsley and basil, bay leaf, and 2 dried chili peppers. Simmer for 1 hour. You will need enough water for the garbanzos to soak up, but if you find you want to thicken the stew, simmer uncovered for a bit. Stir in coarse chopped collard leaves only soon enough to wilt before serving, approximately 2 to 5 minutes. Put some wild rice in a bowl, cover with stew, garnish with coarse slices of parmesan, and serve.

This recipe serves approximately four people. Also, we noticed when we finished that this recipe is gluten-free!

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