Recipe: Stewed Cannelinis With Pancetta And Swiss Chard
Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.
I love cannellinis beans. Whether they are served as part of a light salad with a lemon vinaigrette, fresh Italian parsley and grilled shrimp or part of a hearty wintry stew or soup, they are a key ingredient in this chef’s definition of “comfort food.”
I adapted this recipe from October 2013 Food & Wine. The end result was as sophisticated as a cassoulet without the same amount of preparation and ingredients. I served it for a casual dinner party from the Dutch oven in which it was prepared and I think everyone enjoyed serving seconds from a ceramic ladle on their own.
So this weekend as the weather cools and the leaves fall, serve this Italian dish family style and be grateful for the change of seasons that make meals like this so welcomed.
Stewed Cannelini Bean with Pancetta and Swiss Chard
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 cups dried cannellini beans (3/4 lb., soaked overnight and drained)
1 head Swiss chard chiffonade (stalks discarded)
1 small onion halved
1 large onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb. pancetta cut into small cubes (lardon in French)
4 garlic cloves slivered
6 hot dried red chiles
1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp. finely chopped sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 C. Marsala wine
1 28 oz. canned Italian tomatoes, chopped
Grated parmesan cheese, extra olive oil and fresh cracked pepper to finish.
1. In a large Dutch oven (enamel Le Creuset, for example) cover the beans and halved onion with water. Salt generously. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer over low heat until tender, about an hour. Taste. Continue cooking if they are too al dente. When finished, drain the beans, set aside and reserve the cooking broth. You will need it later to thin the stew.
2. In the same pot, add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until a nice crisp cube has formed. Set the lardon aside but leave the fat in the pot. Add the olive oil. Heat and add the onions. Saute until translucent. Add the garlic. Cook for two minutes. Add the rosemary and sage and cook until fragrant, one minute. Toss in the thyme, a teaspoon of sea salt and the pancetta. Stir to combine. Toss in the Swiss chard. Allow to wilt with a couple of turns of the spoon. Add the Marsala. Allow it to bubble to cook off the alcohol, three minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes to incorporate. And then add the beans and the dried chiles. Salt to taste. Now add enough reserved cooking liquid so sauce just covers beans. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes until a rich and thick stew has formed. If the beans are too thick simply add a little more of the cooking liquid.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve in low, wide bowls. Dust with freshly grated parmesan, pour a tablespoon of olive oil in the center and pass the pepper grinder.