I love good words almost as I love good food. Almost. The best thing is when delicious things have delicious names and that is exactly the case with mirepoix. In the Official English Dictionary of Kate-isms (the good old OEDK), “mirepoix” is what you say when you cast a little spell over a pan of wholly mundane ingredients and turn them into something scrumptious. I think it was the favorite spell of Hermione’s foodie roommate (oh you don’t remember her? I think she’s in the eighth book…)
The real life definition of mirepoix isn’t that far from the OEDK definition. You take some humble carrots, celery, and onions, you chop the bejeezus out of them, and you have a mirepoix. Saute in butter, deglaze with white whine, et mirepoix! … you’re on your way to all things bright and beautiful.
Specifically – if you’re cooking with me – you’re most likely on your way to this stew. Its heart and soul is mirepoix, its substance is white beans and greens, and it is a heavy hitter in my line-up of satisfying cold-weather meals. To the surprise of no one who cooks or eats with me often, I usually double or triple the amount of tomatoes in the recipe. The solid base of flavors contributed by the mirepoix withstands tinkering with the ratios of the other ingredients. I’m partial to the slight crunch of kale in this dish, but I sometimes use chard or spinach in its stead.
White Bean Stew
1 large bunch of kale- cleaned, removed from stems, and chopped into large pieces (substitute spinach or chard if desired)
2 T olive oil
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped shallots (substitute onions if desired)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine (I use cheap vermouth)
2 15 oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 c water and a square of veggie bullion)
1 c crushed tomatoes (I often double or triple this)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Several sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the kale or chard (if using spinach, skip this step) and cook for just one minute. Drain and squeeze the water out of the greens. Set aside.
Dry out the pot, add oil, and heat over a medium-high flame. Add the mirepoix and garlic and cook for several minutes until everything is soft and the shallots are beginning to brown. Add the wine and cook until liquid is reduced by 3/4. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. You can simmer on low as long as you want- the flavors will only improve. Add the greens and cook 5 more minutes. Add more broth if you like a thinner stew. Serve with crusty bread and parmesan cheese.