I‘ve been refining this wonderful dish for about eight years now and it’s a huge crowd pleaser. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to make and consists of just six ingredients:
- Fresh bacon – 2 pounds.
- Fresh sausage – 2 pounds.
- Yellow onions – 3 pounds.
- Red potatoes – 3 pounds.
- Sweet white wine – 3 liters.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes – two 28 ounce cans.
That’s it – there’s nothing else added. No salt or pepper, no thickener, no other flavorings – nothing.
I tend to buy organic ingredients for all my cooking and this particular recipe really shines with the freshest possible ingredients available. In this case, the bacon contains no nitrates or nitrites (or any other artificial additives for that matter), is naturally smoked and cut extra thick. As far as prep is concerned, the bacon is thoroughly browned and cooked to the point of being crispy – this is important because the bacon will become quite limp during cooking with the other components and a firmer start really helps the mouthfeel down the road. Once the bacon is suitably cooked, I use kitchen shears to cut them into small pieces – about the width of my little finger.
For sausage, I typically use the less spicy sweeter varieties. In the past I have used sweet Italian pork links, chicken links, breakfast links and – this time – freshly made English bangers. We found the bangers to be the preferred sausage for this dish; they were very hearty, savory, wholesome and delivered an extra special kick to the end result. After browning, I wait until the links are fairly well cooled, then I use a sharp knife to cut them into small chunks. I have found that leaving the bacon and sausage whole is detrimental to the end result; the flavor is much improved with them being cut into smaller pieces.
Initially, I cut everything into super thin uniform pieces, but over many many trials I found that this dish benefits from coarsely cut ingredients. For the onions, I cut the bulb in half, then made each slice about a third of an inch thick. The reason for the coarse cutting is that everything slow cooks together for six hours; if the ingredients are cut too thin, they just dissolve into a mealy paste; by keeping the chunks bigger, they keep their individuality and deliver better flavor in the end.
For the potatoes, they need to be of the waxy variety – like a red potatoes, Yukon golds or white rounds; russet potatoes are too starchy and dissolve during the long cooking time. Again, the potatoes benefit from being cut quite thick so that nice chunks make it to the end of the cooking cycle.
I use standard yellow onions for their flavor; sweet onions fade too much during cooking and don’t really contribute anything. After I’ve cooked them down to the point they begin to brown and caramelize (and not beyond or they create a bitter flavor that doesn’t go away), I quickly begin assembling all the components for the long slow cooking period.
I use the biggest cast-iron pot we own for this coddle. Once the pot is up to temperature, I use half of the onions for the bottom layer, followed by half of the potatoes, half of the bacon and half of the sausage – then I repeat the layering process with the remainder of the ingredients. After all the dry ingredients are layered in place, then I add the 3 liters of sweet white wine and put the lid on.
Initially I tried stout beer as the cooking liquid and didn’t care for the results, and followed that effort with a water version and a chicken stock version – each not quite what I had in mind. Then, having an ingredient shortage and not wanting to go to the store, I tried using sweet white wine – a box of cheap chablis we had in the pantry. That – combined with fire roasted diced tomatoes – resulted in both of us exclaiming “Wow!” when we finally dug into it. Serendipity! For this latest batch, I used three liters of inexpensive Riesling wine in a box and found it to be the best so far.
When cooking this coddle, I like to reduce the wine by half to concentrate the flavor and make room for the tomatoes, so I ease the lid off by a crack and let it simmer for about four hours before adding them.
I found that the Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes add terrific flavor to the coddle, and tried many other brands and types before settling on this version. It’s important not to add the tomatoes too early in the cooking process, otherwise they don’t survive to the end; I usually add them about an hour or two before the end – it just depends on how fast the wine gets reduced to the halfway mark.
The total cooking time in the pot is six hours; prep time for the meat is another hour or so, and another 20 minutes for the onions, so figure on most of eight hours being required for this dish.
We make enough so we can continue to enjoy this coddle for at least a week or longer. Considering how few ingredients are used, the flavors achieved at the end are remarkably complex and flavorful.