This post is part of the What Chef’s Eat series. This series contains recipes created by cooks who need a quick meal after work.
One of the small ironies of working in a restaurant is that most of the time you find yourself extremely hungry. It is a misconception if you think cooks (line-cooks) get to eat the bounty of food that surrounds them. In reality most of us are trying to steal bread from the bread baskets before service. Sure you taste what you are making throughout the cooking process but if you work in a busy NYC fine dining restaurant chances are you do not have time to sit down and enjoy a decent meal. By the end of the shift most cooks are usually hungry. We do however have an array of places to chose from after we get off work. You can have breakfast at one of the many 24 hour diners, a burger at JG Melon (conveniently open until 4am), the extra crispy Korean fried chicken in K-Town, Japanese pancakes at Sake Bar Hagi in Midtown, a hot pastrami sandwich at your local deli, or maybe just a can of chunky tomato bisque soup or simply a bowl of cereal.
My boyfriend and I frequent what we like to call ‘the good deli’ in the Upper East Side because of their wide variety of spreadable condiments such as spicy hummus, pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and surprisingly delicious late night sandwiches. You might call it to our own little Cheers bodega where they may not know our names but they certainly know our orders; chicken cheese steak for me, pastrami for him. One day I forgot to tell the sandwich guy what condiment I wanted on my sandwich and he simply put it on anyway (honey mustard – don’t judge). That was when I realized that it might be time to branch out.
In an effort to eat healthier and save some money we decided to start cooking more at home. Since we are both tired and usually get off work close to midnight, meals have to be quick and we usually use whatever we have in the fridge. It can be challenging to scrounge up some interesting meal combinations. Some of our favorites include egg tacos and egg quesadillas, the perfect late night snack if you ask me. But then again piling eggs on top of any mean always makes it better?
After getting a few inquiries about what cooks like to cook for themselves I thought it would be fun to write about it here. So I started another series that will include these recipes. Trust me they aren’t fancy but rather a late night snack after we work the pm shift at our respective restaurants. Most of the recipes can be improvised, more salt here, a little less vinegar there, in order to suit the diner’s taste. Personally we like spicy, and I use tomatoes and peppers whenever I can get my hands on them. We get home, cook our meal, then sit in front of the computer and watch the latest Modern Family or old Scrubs reruns.
So here we go, this is the first recipe in the “What Chefs Eat” series. It is a white bean ragout, specifically Italian cannellini beans, a second cousin to kidney beans and navy beans among others. You may recognize these beans in such popular foods as minestrone or maybe pasta fagioli (beans in Italian). If you are using dried beans make sure to soak them overnight. In this case we used canned since we stopped by the Food Emporium 10 minutes before it closed and ran around a la Super Market Sweep trying to grab items for a satisfying dinner. This is what we came up with.
White Bean Ragout – Canellini Ragout
A ragout is essentially a stew that you cook on a low temperature for a long period of time in order to bring out the flavor of the food. A bean ragout can be quick, since you don’t need to break down the beans like you would meat in other ragouts. Make enough so you have some leftovers. Like many stews this recipe tastes good the next day after the flavors had time to come together. The Italian frying peppers in the photo weren’t used in this recipe but rather fried and eaten with our salad.
2 Cans of White Beans such as Canellini
1 Bell Pepper, diced
3 Cherry Peppers, diced
1 Small Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flake
1 Tsp Parika
2 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
2 Sprigs Oregano
First you want to make a sofrito. Heat up your olive oil and toss in your onions and let them sweat for a couple of minutes. Next add your peppers and let them simmer until they are soft. When your sofrito is soft add your garlic, paprika, and red pepper flakes. The cherry peppers and red pepper flake will add some heat to the beans.
Next add your cherry tomatoes, red wine vinegar, and fresh oregano. Let them stew for ten minutes for the flavors to combine then add your beans.
We let the cannellini beans cook in order to thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add more vinegar according to taste. If you like you can wilt in some arugula. Turn off the flame and add the arugula to the pan. Cover with a lid and the excess steam will cook the arugula without overcooking.
You can serve over a salad like we did or you can serve on toasted bread.