Not long ago, I enjoyed a particularly fantastic supper at Woodberry Kitchen which consisted of navy beans, torn bread, kale, turnips, and smoked red chile, all baked up in a petite cast iron pan and garnished with fresh pea shoots. It was delicious top to bottom, but those torn bread chunks studding the dish–so crisp, so well seasoned, so tasty–have haunted me ever since.

Though I have no wood-fired brick oven here at home, nor any cast iron pans for baking such a dish, I decided to try for an approximation with the ingredients I had on hand.

The stew I came up with was hearty and comforting, but it was ultimately a dish quite unlike the original, of course. It was plenty tasty, sure, but disappointment encroached at the dinner table. I had failed to capture the bread–both in texture and taste. It was good, but it wasn’t that bread. How did they do it?

So it’s back to the drawing board on that part. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for exactly–more of a crouton, perhaps? even drier and spicier than what I made?–but I’ll let you know when I find it.

Meanwhile, this is a dish that would warm and welcome any visitor arriving at your door on a cold night.

Traveler's Stew: Process

Traveler’s Stew

1 1/2 cups crowder peas, cooked
4 T olive oil, divided
1 sprig rosemary
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
28 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp paprika
2-3 cups swiss chard, de-ribbed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Several slices of crusty bread, cubed (an 8-inch portion of stale baguette works especially well here)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Traveler's Stew: Process

In a 4 qt. oven-safe pot, heat 2 T olive oil and sizzle rosemary to infuse. Add onion and saute until softened, then stir in mushrooms and continue cooking until they release their juices. Remove and discard the rosemary and add the carrots, celery, beans, tomatoes (with their juice), wine and spices to the pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the carrots have softened. Add the swiss chard, and continue cooking 10-15 minutes more, until greens are wilted and flavors well merged. Season with salt as needed.

While you wait for the greens to cook down, preheat the broiler and heat the remaining 2T olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic to infuse the oil and then add the bread cubes, tossing to coat with the oil. Continue to toast them in the pan, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the cubes are golden, about 7 minutes.

When ready to serve, layer the bread on top of the stew. I decided to push the chunks down into the liquid just slightly to soak them into the tomato broth somewhat, then I placed the pot under the broiler for a few minute to recrisp the bread and actually burn it just a bit (personal preference).

Remove from oven and garnish with parsley. Serve piping hot.

Traveler's Stew