Now for something different. Long time readers will recognize this, as I posted an earlier version just over five years ago.
I‘ve been refining this wonderful dish for about thirteen years (I don’t even read a recipe for it now) and it’s a huge crowd pleaser. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to make and consists of just seven ingredients:
- Fresh bacon — 2 pounds (no nitrates or nitrites preferred).
- Fresh breakfast link sausages — 2 pounds (no nitrates or nitrites preferred).
- Yellow onions — 5 huge sharp onions, not sweet onions.
- Garlic — 1 entire head
- Mini Bella mushrooms — 3 pounds.
- Chablis white wine — 3 liters (we just buy a big box of it).
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes — four 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 thin (the brand we’ve really taken a shine to is Boar’s Head). 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 this case, Johnsonville pork breakfast links. In the past I have used sweet Italian pork links, chicken links, breakfast links, freshly made English Bangers, etc. — but the flavors seem to do best with the small pork breakfast links. After browning, I wait until the links are fairly well cooled, then I use kitchen shears to cut them into quarters. 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; additionally, bigger pieces are more of a challenge to eat with a spoon and they don’t stretch as far either.
Initially, I cut everything into super thin uniform pieces, but over many iterations through the years I found that this dish benefits from coarsely cut ingredients… generally the thicker the better, just so long as they are sized to fit on a soup spoon. 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.
In prior versions, I’ve always used potatoes. If you choose to go that route, 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.
However, Cindy requested that I make this version relatively “low carb”, so I substituted mini Bella mushrooms instead. Wow! It was superior both in flavor and mouthfeel with the use of the mushrooms instead of the potatoes.
For the garlic, I use an entire head — not just one or two cloves (the long cooking period will mellow the flavor very nicely) — and I don’t mince them. Instead, I’ll run them through a garlic press so that I get a uniform distribution throughout the mix.
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 the onions 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 cooking period.
I use the biggest cast-iron pot we own for this coddle — about 16-quarts in size. Cast iron is preferred, as it helps impart a flavor that’s lacking if the coddle is cooked in ceramic, aluminum, or steel.
Once the pot is up to temperature, I use a third of the onions for the bottom layer, followed by a third of the mushrooms (or potatoes), a third of the bacon, and a third 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 (Chablis) and put the lid on.
Initially I tried stout beer as the cooking liquid (per the original and authentic Irish recipe) but didn’t care for the results, and followed that effort with a water version, then a chicken stock version — each not quite what I had in mind. Finally, having had an ingredient shortage and not wanting to go to the store, I tried using sweet white wine — a box of the cheap stuff that we happened to have on hand 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 Chablis 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 until the last remaining hour before adding them.
I found that the Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes add terrific flavor to the coddle, and have 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 so 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.