Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bacon and Chickpea Stew inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo

My absolute favorite historical fiction novel is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I know a lot of people are scared off by the fact that it’s a little over 1,200 pages long. I put off reading this book for about three years for that exact reason…and because I’ve never been a fan of French literature. But as soon as I started reading it, I forgot that it was 3 inches thick, I forgot it was originally written in French, and I even forgot that it was authored by a guy who's hair made him look like he just got electrocuted.

All I could think about was how beautifully written the story truly was. The Three Musketeers gets much more notice than The Count of Monte Cristo, and I have absolutely no idea why. I found the storyline much more enthralling, the characters much deeper, and I even think that the quality of the writing was better, but I might be biased.  

I’m pretty sure most of you are familiar with the basic plot of this story. But I’m going to write out a brief synopsis for you anyway, since I need the practice. =)  

It is February 24th, 1815, and Edmund Dantes might possibly be the happiest man in France. He is just returned home to his loving father after a long and successful sail, he is promoted to captain almost as soon as he sets foot on land, and he is about to marry a beautiful and loving woman who he has adored since childhood.
But his success stirs up jealousy among three of his ‘friends,’ who have him arrested for being a Bonapartist, a crime punishable by death or life-long imprisonment. Before he is able to take his wedding vows, Dantes is dragged away and locked up in the Chateau d'If, where he is held unjustly for thirteen years.
While in prison he meets a learned priest who helps turns him into a well-educated man. The priest also tells Dante’s of a large treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo, which shall be his if ever he should escape.
And escape he does. Immediately making his way to the island of Monte Cristo, Dante’s finds the treasure and becomes enormously rich. However, embittered by his long and undeserved imprisonment, Dantes only has one use for his new-found money – track down the men who ruined his life and cause them to undergo the pains that he was made to suffer.
Believing himself to be acting as God’s hand of justice, he slowly and cleverly brings his enemies to their knees. But he soon comes to realize that his actions are devastating to the innocent as well as the guilty, and struggles with his own guilt as he nears the end of his goal.

This story has it all: romance, subterfuge, betrayal, revenge, adventure. But it’s not just another shallow adventure book. This novel delves deep into themes such as justice, revenge, and mercy. And, on top of that, the characters are extremely accurate portrayals of both the good and evil side of mankind. Not once do they seem like character, but always  come across as real people.  

What’s another good thing about this book? It had descriptions of lots of yummy sounding foods. I decided I wanted to try at least one of the dishes out.

The one food that popped up the most often was hashish, so I thought I’d try to make a recipe using that. But as I read further into the book I got the vague idea that it was some kind of drug, but I wasn’t exactly sure. So I Googled the definition of it and this is what it said:

Hashish - an extract of the cannabis plant, containing concentrations of the psychoactive resins.

Oh, so it’s pot. Well, since I don’t live in Colorado I decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to try a hashish-based recipe.  

Moving on to plan B. Near the end of the book in chapter 117 (a bit crazy sounding, I know) there is a section where one of the men who was responsible for Edmund Dante’s imprisonment is kidnapped by some bandits who force him to pay outrageous prices for food. At first the man is unwilling to comply with these thieves, who are secretly working for Dante, but he soon begins to get hungry. When he sees one of his jail guards, Peppino, eating chickpeas stewed with bacon, he finally can stand it no longer and pays the bandits whatever they ask in return for food. He, in the end, becomes bankrupt because of this, which was Dante’s intent.

Those couple chapters are some of my favorites, so I just had to create a recipe surrounding it. That is how I came to make Bacon and Chickpea stew.

Generally, I don’t eat meat because I’m not a huge fan, but I decided that I could make an exception. Other than that, this recipe follows all of my diet restrictions. It has no gluten, no sugar, no soy, and no dairy. And, I am happy to say, it tasted very good.

So here’s how I made it:

Bacon and Chickpea Stew

Ingredients –
  • 2 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked anywhere from 9 to 24 hours  
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 5 strips of bacon, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons of canned diced tomatoes, pureed with ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of oregano
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon of chili flakes, depending on how spicy you like your food
  • 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano

Directions –

1. Place onion, garlic, and bacon in a large pan. Keep in mind that the pan will need to be large enough to hold all of the other ingredient listed above. Sautee until the onions are translucent and the bacon is cooked through. This takes about 8 - 10 minutes.

2. Add the chickpeas, tomato puree, carrots, water, and bay leaf. As you can see, I used two bay leaves because mine were pathetically small.

3. Bring to a simmer, put the heat to low, and cover. Allow it to cook for 30 minutes.

4. When the 30 minutes are up, add the chili flakes, salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Cover again and simmer until the chickpeas are cooked through and the soup is quite thick. This took me about an hour and a half, but I’m pretty sure it would have finished in an hour if I hadn’t kept lifting the lid to peek.

5. When the time is up, remove the bay leaf and serve. It is wonderful by itself, but some kind of bread or salad would go with it nicely.

            Now I know this recipe takes a while. If you don’t have the time to soak and cook the chickpeas from scratch, then try this:

            Follow step 1 all the way through. When it comes to step 2, do everything the same, except use 1 and ½ to 2 cans of chickpeas and only use 1 and ½ cups of water. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, add all the seasonings, and then serve. That is definitely a much quicker way to do it. But you have to be willing use a can, which never tastes nearly as good. But I guess if you’ve never had ‘homemade chickpeas,’ which I hadn’t up until I made this dish, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
            I hope this post made you decide to read The Count of Monte Cristo. If not, I hope it at least made you try a new recipe. Because, I mean, if you eat a dish that comes from The Count of Monte Cristo, you will have experienced the book more than anyone who has actually read it, right?  


  1. Excellent!! Perfect for my book club meeting tonight! For what!? You guessed it; The Count OF Monte Cristo! Thanks!!

    1. That sounds like a super fun book club! I'm so glad to have been of help. Hope everything worked out well!

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