Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sweet Potato & Bean Stew

This recipe is really Mark Bittman's from his excellent The Food Matters Cookbook. That recipe starts with dried beans, cooks the beans with some seasoning and pork product, and then proceeds to the stew. I think it's wonderful to start with dried beans; I usually do that myself. But, there are plenty of days where I'm just running behind and a can or two of cooked beans can save your dinner. If you start with dried beans, dinner will take a few hours. If you start with canned beans, you can pull this off in an hour.

The sausage in this recipe is garnish, not the main event. I made it with 1 link (about 6 oz.) of andouille, so everyone gets two to three small slices of sausage with their stew. You get the flavor of the meat without adding much to the cost.

Sweet Potato and Bean Stew
(serves 6, cost $12)

1 teaspoon oil
2 oz. bacon or pancetta, diced
1-2 links andouille or hot Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch of cayenne
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 15-oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 large sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds, cut into 1" chunks
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
vinegar-based hot sauce (like Tabasco) or juice of ½ a lime

Heat up the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until it renders its fat. Remove from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the sausage. Sauté until browned. Remove from pot and set aside to cool slightly. There will be a bit of fat in the pot and it will add lots of flavor to the dish. But, you don't need more than a couple of tablespoons and remove some if there is more than that.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, allspice, and cayenne. Sauté for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom to keep the spices from burning. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the reserved pancetta, beans, sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper. There should be enough liquid to nearly cover the beans and potatoes. If not, add some water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 30 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender. Slice the sausage while the stew is cooking and add back to the pot so the sausage can finish cooking. Add hot sauce or lime juice, stir, and serve.

Reheats very well.

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