Monday, February 7, 2011

DO not call me a Cassoulet

Very honestly - I left the house the other day intent on making a somewhat traditional cassoulet (only 'somewhat' traditional because I knew there was going to be a lack of anything described as 'confit') I have a friend who made it a while back and it looked delicious so I thought I would give it a go - check out his stuff - it's excellent - a MUST read. 

Anyway,  here I go. I am looking for duck legs, a fantastic homemade sausage of some sort, and flageolet beans - or I was prepared to substitute dried cannellini beans and do the quick soak method (directions to follow)

After two stops, two receipts for things I 'might' need for some recipe soon, and my favorite Hostess snowballs (yes - these are the greatest food ever made)  I came home with chicken drumsticks, a sausage that said it was made with basil and garlic, and two bags of Great Northern White beans (???) By the way - while IN my local grocery, I had to use the phone to google 'substitutions for cannellini beans' - yes, I did - and was told to purchase Great Northern White beans - which, I did.

Okay, so obviously, I did not search as high and low as I probably could have. But I needed to start cooking so some slight adjustments were going to have to be made.

Have you ever googled "cassoulet"? This is a traditional French dish and one of the ultimate French comfort foods. I really wanted to try this. So I made what I could, with what I had. It took about 2 hours total prep time since I needed to wait for the beans to cook. Then almost 2 hours in the oven. But it was delicious - adjustments and all. Although I cannot call this a cassoulet, I will call it comfort food - hearty, warm and great with your favorite red wine.


2 bags of Great Northern White beans (or 2 bags dried Cannellini beans - good luck) 

there will be quite a bit leftover - I will hopefully have something to show for what I did with these - soon

8 chicken drumsticks

6-8 pieces italian sausage (hot or mild - whichever you prefer)

1/2 package bacon

3 carrots - chopped rather chunky

3 stalks of celery - also chopped rather chunky

1 sweet onion - chopped

5 garlic cloves - chopped fine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans chopped canned tomatoes

a lot of chopped parsley (half now - half later)

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tablespon paprika (more if you like)

1 tablespoon cayenne papper (also more if you like)

3 tablespoons butter in the beginning

5 tablespoons melted butter for the end

(i gues you need 1 stick of butter - divided)



olive oil


FIRST the beans: The quick method thing - beans go into a large pot - fill with water about 2 or 3 inches above the top of the beans - cover - bring to a boil - let boil about 6/7 minutes - then turn off the heat but leave it covered for an hour. I left mine covered until I was ready to add them to my meat mixture (this is necessary if you did not let them soak overnight - which is the recommended method - but I obviously did not think this through that far in advance)

Oven to 400 degrees

In a large pot or a Dutch oven (preferably the Dutch Oven) heat the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter then brown the chicken legs - remove - brown the sausage - remove - then brown the bacon - NOT necessarily to the point of really crispy - you mostly want a lot of the fat rendered to flavor everything else that is going in the pot. When you think the bacon is about right toss in the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. FOOD 704

(there is really no point for this photo other than I thought it was pretty)

Cook all the vegetables with the bacon about 10 minutes. Then add the tomato paste - give everything a good stir to coat - then add the canned tomatoes - stir - add about a cup of chopped parsley, the thyme and the bay leaves - stir. Now start adding beans. I'm sorry I didnt get a photo of this part. On my stove I had the beans in one pot - and the 'cassoulet' going on in another pot - and just ladled beans from one pot to another. Start with 4 cups of the cooked beans. Add the chicken legs and sausages back in FOOD 708
- then add another two cups of beans. Salt and pepper then give everything a good stir (no - this will not be easy) Turn the heat to high and bring this to a boil. Add water until the liquid is about an inch from the top of your pot 

FOOD 710
- let come to a boil. FINALLY - cover and put in the oven for an hour and a half (yes - 1 1/2 hours) Check the pot halfway through to make sure there is still some liquid visible - if needed add another cup or two of water, stir, then leave it alone.

When out of the oven add the paprika and cayenne and taste to see if you need salt and pepper.

At this point I did do the bread crumb topping I read about in several recipes. It is 2 cups of bread crumbs mixed with 2 cloves of garlic and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Cover the top of the soup/stew mix with the bread crumb mixture - drizzle with the remaining melted butter and put back it back in the oven until browned - about 12 minutes

I think I will leave this part out next time. It seemed to soak up all the liquid - and we like a bit of au jus.

When it is done, let it cool for several minutes while you are slicing a fantastic loaf of bread from Bella Bru Cafe  (on this occasion we had the potato rosemary loaf)  

Serve and dig in
FOOD 722

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