Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bide-A-Wee Hot Pot

When the cold weather arrives and the dark comes down early, there's lots of time for cooking, and much pleasure to be taken from an evening spent in a warm kitchen. But often the simplest preparations are best, and such is the case with this sausage hot pot, which we simmered up this past weekend at our tiny Wisconsin cabin, which, in that precious manner of city folks affecting rustic ways, we have dubbed "Bide-A-Wee."

Thanks to the growers who attended our Thanksgiving market, we were able to top off the "root cellar" (really, we just have stuff sort of strewn all around the basement, and heaped up in the crisper drawers or wherever else things will fit). The leeks in this dish came from our garden; everything else was from the market.

I do like a nice bit of sausage, but you could substitute chicken for the sausage if you prefer, and cooking times will be about the same, a few minutes longer, perhaps. If I were making it with chicken, I would likely use skinless thighs, on the bone. That would give you a quick version of the classic poule au pot. Other meats would be a bit trickier in this abbreviated hot pot--a piece of beef sirloin or flank steak, or a slice of lamb leg could work, but you'd want to simmer that till just medium rare--or be prepared to cook it much longer, to get it tender again. That beef version sounds really good; I'm going to try that next time.

A vegetarian version, obviously, is an option, too. The heart of it really is the vegetables, and you could put anything you like in this dish, adjusting the cooking times as needed. Everything should be well cooked, but not mushy. Turnips, kale, kohlrabi or rutabagas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms fresh or dried, precooked dried beans--this really is adaptable to anything you have on hand.

We had lots of leftovers from this, which provided another dinner for us, back in Saint Paul. We added the classic pot-au-feu garnishes of a garlic-mustard vinaigrette and some chopped cornichons (those little sour pickles), and it really didn't seem like leftovers, at all.

Bide-A-Wee Sausage Hot Pot
serves two, with leftovers
(Our sausage was a Polish krakowska from Kramarczuk's deli, an institution in northeast Minneapolis; the hot pot cooked at a perfect simmer atop our new Four Dog woodstove, handcrafted by Don Kevilus in Saint Francis, MN.)

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 small parsnips
2 small carrots
2 small leeks
1/2 a large onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 6 small new potatoes
2 wedges cabbage, about 1 1/2 inches at the wide end
1 pound smoked sausage--Polish, keilbasa, smoked brats
salt and pepper
grain mustard

Clean up all the vegetables; peel the parsnips and carrots, if you like. Leave the potatoes in their skin. In a large pot bring the water and stock up to a simmer. Add the parsnips, carrots, leeks, onion, and garlic, and a good pinch of salt. Simmer gently, partly covered, for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, potatoes, and sausage (sometimes I brown the sausage first in a skillet with a little oil; nice but not necessary). Simmer for 20 minutes. Check the vegetables for doneness. Continue cooking until everything is tender; if anything is getting overdone, you can take it out and just put it back for a couple of minutes at the end to re-warm. Taste for salt and add a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Serve with grain mustard, crusty bread, a glass of red wine or good beer.

Text and photos copyright 2008 by Brett Laidlaw


Anonymous said...

Your site always makes me crave food! Coming from Scotland a lot of your game and rustic recipes appeal to my rural palate.
Keep up the good work.


Trout Caviar said...

Thanks for your note, ESP. I would have more reports and recipes from the field, were I a better shot. The dogs have been doing great work, and I haven't been holding up my end. There's still some time left to hunt, weather permitting.

Maybe it's the Scottish in me, my ideal place to cook and eat would be a stone hut on the moor. My cooking gets simpler and more local every year.

All best,