Sunday, December 11, 2011

Favorite Eats: Navy Bean Stew - Boat Version

Cold days on the water call for something hot and hearty.  I really enjoy this boat version of Navy Bean Stew.  The whole idea of navy bean stew for me conjures up old sailing images of cruising New England's rocky shores, "Down East" boats, and places like Monhegan Island and Kittery.  It's simple and hearty fare of winter ingredients of mushrooms, beans, and greens.  Oh, and did I say bacon?  Everything tastes better with bacon.  The original version probably used salt pork, but I'll stick with bacon.  Let this stew slowly cook on your stove as you motor, under slow bell, to your anchorage and enjoy a winter's day cruising.  Nothing better than coming in to a warm cozy cabin, hot stew waiting, a good book, and family.  Or, you can do like me, just make the stew while sitting at the dock and puttering about your boat on a cold winter's day.

Now I call it a boat version, because although you make it from scratch you are using "victuals" found in your ship's larder.  The home version has fresh mushrooms, navy beans pre-soaked, and fresh greens like kale or spinach.  Sure you can pack some of these things down to your boat, but if you're like me, your larder is limited in size and you've got more canned food than fresh.  Sometimes the mood just strikes you for a meal that you have a hankerin' for, and you didn't leave the dock planning to make this meal; and you are too many miles away from any marina or store. Finally, you probably don't keep fresh ingredients on your boat in the winter months.

So let's get started... First, check your larder for the following ingredients:
  • Canned mushrooms, one large can or two small cans (If you have dried mushrooms like Shttakes, this is even better.  You'll want to soak enough to have about a good cup or more.)
  • Canned navy beans, one 15 oz. can
  • Canned spinach, one 15 oz. can (you can also use kale, fresh spinach, or bok choy about 2 cups)
  • Chicken broth, one can or 2 bullion cubes
  • Dried onions, 3 tablespoons (or 1 cup yellow onion diced)
  • Dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3 strips thick cut bacon, or some kielbasa sausage (you could use SPAM if needed, I have)
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup (or if you are truly gourmet, a squeeze of tomato paste from a tube)
  • Canned potatoes, one 15 oz. can (or 3 small Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn's chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Fresh water, about 1-2 cups
Chop your bacon into small 1/4" pieces, or thinly slice your sausage.  Next, heat a large pot over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil.  Add your bacon or sausage and fry until the edges just start to get crisp but not burnt.  Add your dried onions or fresh if you have it and saute' for about a minute.  You just want the dried onions to "wake up" and start to get soft.  Add your canned mushrooms along with the water in the cans.  Add the ketchup and dried thyme seasoning too.  Mix well.  Drain the can of potatoes and chop them if you want.  Reduce the heat to low and next add the chicken broth, potatoes and water.  If you are using bullion cubes you'll want to add more water, if not about a cup of water will do.  Season this mix with salt and black pepper to your liking.  Let the mix cook over low heat, covered, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the potatoes just start to get soft when poked with a fork. 

Drain the can of spinach, give the spinach a quick chop, and add to the pot - you can choose to add the entire can of spinach to the pot or just a portion.  Next you will want to thoroughly rinse the can of navy beans.  You don't want to add the bean liquid in the can to the stew.  If you do, it will make your delicious stew taste pretty "funky."  Once the beans are rinsed and drained, add them to the pot along with the vinegar, and let the stew slowly cook over low heat for about another 10 minutes.  Stir your stew occasionally during this time.  The potatoes will start to break down and thicken your stew.  If it gets too thick for your taste, add more water.  Just don't over cook your stew to the point where your beans start to break down.  The beans should always stay whole.

Finally ladle the hot stew into bowls top and serve with some crusty french bread.  If you're like me you'll add a bit of Louisiana style hot sauce to your stew to kick it up a notch.  A hot rum toddy goes good with it too.  Enjoy.

Variations: As a stew, you can always "fix 'er up" the way you want to.  I've added 1/2 cup of red or white wine right after adding the onions.  This will give it an even richer taste.  If you are a garlic lover, add fresh, dried, powder when you add the onions.  Do not use garlic salt, it will be too salty.  Do not use Bac-O's to get that bacon flavor - Ugh!  That will ruin it.

If you want the home version of the stew, drop me a note and I will either post it or e-mail it to you.

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