When I originally drew up the menus for The Gastronomer's 2008 Christmas present, I intended for the final meal to culminate with chicken cordon bleu. At the time, wrapping one meat in another seemed like an appealingly extravagant conclusion to my series of culinary efforts. However, I somehow managed to forget that chicken is The Gastronomer's least favorite animal to eat, and besides, maybe the venerable dish was never all that cool to begin with...
A substitution had to be made, and with the weather cooling down, this Spanish stew from the Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurants cookbook seemed like an ideal choice. Despite my bastardization of the recipe (see below), it turned out really well. I served the stew with rosemary cream biscuits from the The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
Recipe by The Barcelona Cookbook
- 1/2 pound ham, finely diced
- 1/2 pound slab bacon, finely diced
- 2 cups diced smoked Spanish chorizo sausage (about 4 links)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic (one whole head)
- 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cups canned tomatoes, drained
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
- 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- 6 cups chopped escarole or a similar green such as chard or kale (about 1/2 pound)
With your hands, squeeze the tomatoes to break them up and expel their juices. Add them to the pot along with the potatoes and enough stock to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Push the greens into the soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the greens wilt and the soup is piping hot. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Yield: 4 hearty servings
Estimated Start-to-Finish Time: Not given
Actual Start-to-Finish Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Substitutions: I wasn't able to buy smoked chorizo, so I ended up using three links of our favorite Italian hot sausage from Trader Joe's. No doubt this changed the character of the soup a bit, but the flavors still melded nicely. I bought a large bunch of swiss chard, and even though it was probably 8-9 cups, I threw it all in because I didn't know what else I'd do with the leftovers. This worked out fine--the stew had more than enough flavor to keep the overabundance of greens from stealing the show.