A Quiet Evening In
New Year's Eve day started out a simple enough affair.
Between a pitcher full of sparkling mimosas,
and a tasty Jewish nosh,
in the form of whole-wheat bagels (we are getting older, you know), cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions and capers-
it was off to a smashing start.
The latter part of the day found me up to my elbows in dough, madly making bagel dogs for a friend's New Year’s Day party. Once all the Nathans hot dogs and spicy chicken sausages had been wrapped, par-baked, and ready to go, it was time for a bit more well-deserved relaxation.
DucCat broke out the caviar sampler I’d gotten him for Christmas, hard-boiling an egg and dicing the onions as I finished cleaning the kitchen.
We sat in front of Christmas tree lights, and the cats were kind enough to join us. Either that, or they just wanted in on the fish egg love, too.
This was my first caviar experience, so I was all smiles as we dug in with our little plastic spoon. After a sip of the chardonnay I’d been working on, I suddenly realized why champagne has such an affinity for caviar. With a quiet pop, that mis-step was soon righted.
Finally, DucCat carefully arranged my first official caviar appetizer. I was so delighted, I ran out to the better light of the kitchen for a quick snapshot.
We giggled, nibbled and sipped our way through the evening, in the midst of our own personal Thin Man marathon. As the hour grew late, the pot I'd left on the stove earlier began demanding I pay a bit of attention to it.
It held the first recipe I selected to cook from my new Maccioni Family Cookbook: Sausage Stew with White Beans.
Another first that evening was using dried beans, and apparently, I didn't use enough water when doing the quick-boil method of softening. They stayed extremely firm through the first step, only softening just a bit after an hour's worth of water had been boiled away. When all was said and done, they still were a bit 'al dente' and toothsome.
The rich flavour of the stew itself was utterly fabulous and deep, belied by the simplicity of the steps, and more than making up for the tenaciously firm beans.
In the future- and you'd best believe there will be a repeat of this, and soon- I may just use canned, unless anyone out there can tell me why I shouldn't.
As the last hours of '05 slipped away, DucCat decided it was time to open our very last bottle of 1996 Chateau De Pommard. He carefully filled our new stemless Reidels, then decanted the remainder.
It was at that exact moment that my allergies exploded in a rage. I hacked, sneezed, and coughed, trying to blow my running nose, suddenly unable to catch even the slightest hint of the wine's character. I popped some medicine, but it was too late, and my allergies ran rampant until the next morning.
The best I got out of that glass was the essence of 'something red', and the stirring of old memories with this same, beautiful bottle. DucCat, at least, enjoyed his to the very last drop.
The ball dropped, we kissed, and turned into bed, happy that this long year was finally over.
Sausage Stew With White Beans
From the Maccioni Family Cookbook (Le Cirque/Osteria del Circo)
1/2 pound dried cannellinni (great northern) beans (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups hot water
2 leaves fresh sage (I used a good pinch of dry, about a teaspoon)
1 whole clove garlic plus 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 Italian sausages (I used 5
1 large red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 Tablesoons white wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (we used three cups, 28 ounces)
2 cups polenta (we didn't use)
In a large saucepan, combine the dried beans and hot water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes; cover, and let sit one hour. Drain the beans and return to the pot.
Add the sage, whole garlic clove, and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil to the large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil just until the beans are tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain. Discard the garlic and save. Set the beans aside.
Puncture the sausages with a fork so that they will release their fat as they cook.
In a large pot, cook the sausages with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat until browned. Set the sausages aside.
Discard the juices from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium high. Add the onion, bay leaf, and remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and cook just until the onions begin to soften. Add the chopped garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the wine and cook for another 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low , add the tomatoes, and return the sausages to the pot.
Cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes, checking and stirring often to prevent sticking. If the stew becomes too dry or begins to stick, add 1/4 cup water. When the stew is almost ready, add the reserved beans and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to tase.
Serve the stew with a large spoonful of polenta.
Note: the stew can also be made without the beans.