Comfort food recipes from Colu Cooks

Make Colu Henry’s soupy beans with ‘nduja and torn radicchio, cauliflower with anchovy oil and crispy capers, and skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards

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Our cookbook of the week is Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.

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Jump to the recipes: Soupy beans with ‘nduja and torn radicchio, cauliflower with anchovy oil and crispy capers, and skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards.

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Colu Henry is a believer in making a weekly pot of beans. When we spoke, she had just cooked a batch of Midnight black beans. The week before that, it was gigantic Royal Crowns.

“I’m a bean club member. So, you know, I love beans” she says with a laugh, referring to Rancho Gordo’s coveted subscription for legume lovers.

For her soupy beans with ‘nduja and torn radicchio, Henry requests you also make your beans from scratch. “The bean water used in this recipe is integral to making its soupiness do its thing,” she writes.

To balance things out, effort wise, she offers a flavor shortcut with the addition of ‘nduja. (Find the spreadable pork and Calabrian chili salume at Italian grocery stores or supermarkets. And while you’re at it, put your ‘nduja to good use in Henry’s smoky garganelli alla vodka from her first book of her, Back Pocket Pasta.)

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“The soupy beans are one of my favorites because ‘nduja is just so delicious,” she says. “I’m obsessed with all things chicory and beans. So, I think it’s a really fun dish.”

As we edge closer to winter, radicchio comes into his own. Henry calls for Castelfranco here, with its buttery yellow, purple-speckled leaves, but you can use any variety you like.

Henry appreciates the beauty of chicories as well as the crisp bitterness they bring to a dish. “It always offers a really nice, crunchy, vibrant brightness for me,” she says. “I also love the fact that they’re just as good raw as they are slightly wilted, which is how they are in the recipe.”

Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry
Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food is writer and recipe developer Colu Henry’s second book. Photo by Abrams

The second recipe, cauliflower with anchovy oil and crispy capers, can be served alongside Henry’s skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards “or anything else you darn well please.”

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Basting the capers in oil gives them a crunchy texture, which offsets the caramelized softness of the roasted cauliflower. The anchovies melt into “the very best oil,” which brings the dish together with its chili heat.

It’s not only an exceptional side but is also delicious tossed with pasta, Henry suggests, or with white beans.

“So, it’s a good place to start and you can build upon it,” she says. “Greens would be really good folded in there. I feel like it’s a pretty versatile dish that you can take in a lot of directions.”

As with the soupy beans with ‘nduja and torn radicchio, the final recipe, skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards, is in Colu Cooks’ “When in Need of Comfort” chapter.

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There’s a lot to appreciate about this dish. But at the top of the list is that it comes together in a single cast-iron skillet.

“I love the idea that you are using one pan, which is always great for dishwashing. But also, the fact that you can use the fat from the pork to cook down these greens,” says Henry.

“You’re not going to waste that fat, so you might as well braise your greens in it and give it a little bit of sweet-and-sour agrodolce.”

SOUPY BEANS WITH ‘NDUJA AND TORN RADICCHIO

Soupy beans with 'nduja and torn radicchio from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food
Soupy beans with ‘nduja and torn radicchio from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food. Photo by Tara Donne

Time: 10 minutes, plus bean soaking and cooking time

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 oz (115 g) ‘nduja (a spicy, spreadable sausage from Calabria)
4 cups (740 g) cooked large white or black beans, such as Corona, Scarlett Runner or butter beans, 1 to 1 1/2 cups (240 to 360 mL) cooking water reserved
2 medium heads (about 10 oz/280 g) Castelfranco (or other readily available) radicchio, leaves separated and torn
1/2 cup (20 g) torn fresh herbs, such as basil, mint or flat-leaf parsley
Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

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Step 1

Heat the oil in a 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the ‘nduja and cook until it begins to melt, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 2

Add the beans and 1 cup (240 mL) of the reserved cooking liquid and stir until the beans are coated with the ‘nduja oil. Allow to simmer for a minute or so, adding in the additional 1/2 cup (120 mL) cooking liquid if the beans look dry.

Step 3

Add in the radicchio leaves and toss until they are gently wilted. Ladle the soupy beans into soup bowls and top with the torn herbs. Drizzle with additional olive oil and some grated cheese if you like.

Serves: 4

CAULIFLOWER WITH ANCHOVY OIL AND CRISPY CAPERS

Cauliflower with anchovy oil and crispy capers from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food
Cauliflower with anchovy oil and crispy capers from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food. Photo by Tara Donne

Time: 30 minutes

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets that include the core and tender stems
1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp capers, rinsed well if in salt
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup (25g) roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Flaky salt, for finishing (optional)

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Step 1

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). On a large-rimmed sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with half of the oil and season well with kosher salt and black pepper. Arrange the cauliflower florets in a single layer and roast until deeply golden in colour, 25 to 30 minutes, tossing halfway through to ensure even browning.

Step 2

When the cauliflower is about 5 minutes from being done, heat the remaining olive oil in a deep-sided 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and cook, basting with the oil, until they become crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel–lined plate. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the garlic is pale golden, and the anchovies have melted into the oil.

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Step 3

Add the roasted cauliflower, lemon zest, and half the parsley to the skillet and toss to combine. Top with the crispy capers and remaining parsley. Taste and season with flaky salt if you like.

Serves: 4

SKILLET PORK CHOPS WITH VINEGAR AND HONEY NECKLACE

Skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food
Skillet pork chops with vinegar and honey collards from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food. Photo by Tara Donne

Time: 30 minutes

1/2 cup (120 mL) warm water
1/2 cup (120 mL) good-quality cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
4 bone-in pork rib chops, 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 bunches collard greens, tough stems and center ribs discarded, cut into 1-inch-wide (2.5 cm) ribbons (see note)
Flaky salt, for serving

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Step 1

Whisk together the warm water, vinegar and honey until the honey dissolves. Set aside.

Step 2

Season the pork chops well with salt and black pepper. If you can do this the evening before and let them sit uncovered overnight, you’ve planned well; if not, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Step 3

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add the pork chops, working in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan. Cook undisturbed, including the fat caps, until a golden-brown crust appears and the pork chops are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and allow them to rest.

Step 4

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften and starts to crisp around some of the edges, about 3 minutes. Add in the collard greens and toss frequently until they begin to wilt, about 5 minutes more.

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Step 5

Stir the vinegar-honey mixture into the skillet and scrape up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid has been reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with kosher salt and black pepper and remove from heat.

Step 6

Slice the pork chops or keep them whole and serve on top of the greens in the pan. Season everything with flaky salt.

Serves: 4

note: Feel free to use kale in place of collards if it is easier to find.

Recipes and images excerpted from Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry. Text copyright ©2022 Colu Henry. Photograph copyright ©2022 Tara Donne. Used by permission of Abrams, an imprint of ABRAMS.

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