That’s why we have hot baths, hot dish, hugs and naps

Archived | October 6, 2010 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a lovely autumn day, and I listened from the porch. The leaves are turning, and change is in the air. It’s a bit of a challenge for some of my neighbors, to be sure. There are people in the world who would be perfectly fine if things simply stayed as they are for now and evermore, and isn’t that a tragic thought? I mean, really. A man named W. Edwards Deming said something about change not being necessary, that survival isn’t mandatory. Of course it isn’t comfortable, but nothing really worth your time IS entirely comfortable. Think about it. Childbirth, hard work, growing up, healthy conflict. That’s why we have hot baths, hot dish, hugs and naps. We seek comfort when the routine changes.
The colors are amazing right now, and I’m hungry for things I hadn’t even thought of a month ago. Meat, for one. I’m hungry for roast and ribs and anything that can fit in the crock pot. Which I got out of the pantry over the weekend. It’s all cleaned up and ready to fill with pork chops and gravy and caramelized onions and potatoes. Hungry for beans and breads and porridge and pastry, for pumpkin and squash and nutmeg and sage. Hungry for stuffings and glazes and toppings and crusts. Get out the casseroles, bring on the feast. I’m thinking dumplings for the weekend and a recipe for pasties I’ve never made, and who knows what else.
When I was a kid, I remember well the change from summer to autumn, and coming home to banana bread still warm on the counter and hot chocolate just before bed. I remember pheasant in a cream sauce in the crock pot on Saturdays, and venison jerky in the oven, and the yeasty-sweet smell of cinnamon rolls on Sunday afternoons. Pumpkin pie and a chicken rice dish with rosemary and celery salt and thyme, and the amazing array of canned cream soups in the pantry. Roast beef that melted in your mouth, buttered carrots and mounds of potatoes mashed with garlic and sour cream and salt. Sauerkraut and sausage and rye bread and a homemade cake frosted with coconut and brown sugar and butter lightly broiled. Oatmeal cookies flavored with orange, and a “How was your day?” Comfort enough for any kid, or adult, for that matter, on a day when October winds blow cold, and leaves swirl, and skies darken toward November, and inevitable winter.
Italian Sausage and Bean Casserole
Here’s a recipe with “comfort” written all over it. I’d bake a squash alongside, and some apple crisp to follow.
12 slices white sandwich bread
Ground pepper
2 lbs smoked Polish or Italian sausage, halved lengthwise, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
2 large onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 can (14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 tsp thyme
4 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern or cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
In a food processor, pulse bread until large crumbs form (about 6 cups); season with salt and pepper. Set aside. (Or bash ’em up in a baggie or however you do it.)
Cook sausage, onions, and garlic in a 6-quart heavy-bottom saucepan, stirring occasionally, until onions are clear and sausage is starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add tomato paste, broth, wine, thyme, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; add beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but still soupy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the breadcrumbs. Divide sausage mixture between two 3-quart shallow baking dishes or eight 10-ounce ramekins. Top with remaining breadcrumbs.
Bake, on a baking sheet, until topping is golden, about 30 minutes at 375.
Cook’s note: You can always throw some cheese in there if you’re so inclined.