February 22 – February 28, 2021
Monday: Chicken Stew, Spoon Bread, Iceberg Wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing
Wednesday: Wedge Salad
Thursday: Cabbage, Sausage and White Bean Casserole
Friday: Tuna Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
Sunday: Guacamole with Chips / Roast Chicken with Chile-Basil Vinaigrette / Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli / Berry Crostata with Ice Cream
“Less than sophisticated,” describes how I have felt, from time to time, in my fairly lengthy existence. My first few months in Catholic grade school, which did not occur until eighth grade, certainly left me feeling naïve, particularly on the occasion when Sister Arsenius swatted me in the head for writing my assignment in pencil in my mathematics text.* And it nails my arrival in college where I was surrounded by prep school fellows who had been living away from home for some time.
*The fact that she hit me in the head with the very book diluted the point she was trying to make: Catholic schools didn’t have the funds that public schools had for texts. Indeed, our history lessons involved, among other things, learning the names of Bishops who had passed on to their heavenly reward in some cases a decade before my arrival at St. Paul’s where they lived on in the stained, dog-eared texts, occasionally missing whole pages, from which we learned, well, not all that much. It was a more seasoned classmate, who told me to defend my self against the nuns who, up to that point in my life, had never posed any kind of physical threat.
But the reason for using the phrase, “less-than sophisticated,” in this post comes from my reading of the Wikipedia article on “casserole” which notes, among other things, that baked dishes resembling casseroles have been around for thousands of years, though the current sense of the dish was established in the 1870s when the French, pioneers on so many culinary frontiers, took to baking a mixture of meat, vegetables and spices in earthenware pans (casseroles in French). Here’s Wikipedia’s take on the recent history of the dish: “. . . but the idea of casserole cooking as a one-dish meal became popular in the United States in the twentieth century, especially in the 1950s when new forms of lightweight metal and glass cookware appeared on the market. By the 1970s casseroles took on a less-than sophisticated image.”
I’m guessing that Wikipedia will have to update it’s take on casseroles because of the cooking many of us have been doing during the pandemic. Indeed, last Sunday the New York Times published an entire section on “Sheet-Pan Cooking” which is a sort of deconstructed take on the casserole.
The casserole recipe below I found in the Washington Post, one of the favorite journals of SWMBO, whom, you may recall is not easy to please.** But she liked this dish a lot. So, I have no compunction, in spite of its lack of sophistication, in recommending it to you. If, on the other hand, you have someone from Phillips Andover Academy visiting, you might want to reconsider.
**SWMBO, who sometimes edits the blog, has reminded that she is not demanding, but simply someone who has high standards. If you do cook for her, however, you may find this nuance less than comforting in practice.
Cabbage, Sausage and White Bean Casserole
(adapted from Aaron Hutcherson, The Washington Post)
I would recommend eating this in front of a roaring fire on a cold night, as we did last week. It would be delicious even during mild weather – but it’s hard to beat as a warm, homey dish in a snowstorm.
Timing: Less than one hour
Ingredients: Serves 4 or 5
Small head of green cabbage (2 lbs.), quartered, cored and thinly sliced
8 ounces loose hot Italian sausage (we used some dynamite Chorizo links from Justin Severino’s ‘Salty Pork Bits’ – and I would recommend using links, in any event, just slice open the casing and remove the sausage.)
2 cans of white beans, drained (we used Great Northern, but cannellini or navy would work as well)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup plain breadcrumbs (we used Panko)
½ cup grated Parmesan
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided – you’ll use 2 tablespoons to cook the sausage and vegetables, and 2 tablespoons to mix the parmesan and breadcrumbs for the casserole topping
1 teaspoon or more of kosher salt
½ teaspoon or more of ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 with rack in the middle position
Chop onion and cabbage
Remove sausage from casing, if necessary
Measure out cream, breadcrumbs and parmesan.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium. [Note: you’ll need cast-iron if you want to finish the dish in one pan – but you can transfer it to a standard casserole if the pan you’re using isn’t oven-safe.]
Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up, until fat is rendered and it’s no longer pink – 10 minutes.
Remove the sausage to a plate but leave the fat in the skillet.
Add the cabbage and onion, in batches, if needed. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened – about 15 minutes – stir occasionally to make sure all the vegetables are cooked.
Add the beans, the heavy cream and the reserved sausage and stir to mix. Adjust seasoning. If you’re not using an oven-safe pan, transfer the mixture to a casserole at this point.
Now mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the casserole.
Bake for 15 minutes – until golden on top.
Let cool for a minute or so, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve directly from the skillet or casserole.