Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hooray For Cassoulet!!

Or at least my version of it.

The weather is absolutely beautiful right now, especially last weekend - it was in the EIGHTIES! But a couple weeks ago it was cold, overcast and drippy, which always puts me in the mood for comfort food ... perfect weather for my knock off Cassoulet!

I love comfort food, anything that has to cook for a long time, that's savory and rich, or something starchy doused in gravy, like rice or potatoes, or just anything rich and savory. And Cassoulet is practically all these things! It's a type of bean stew, originating in the south of France, named after the earthenware dish it's supposed to be cooked in. There are a few different versions of it, one with duck confit (Cassoulet de canard), and the history of this dish is quite interesting, but I shan't go into it here. However, I will say that this dish is so revered that there's even some competition in the region as to which little town actually created it. Although I'm somewhat of a foodie, and at some point in life plan to experience each version, I could care less.... I just want to eat it! With some buttery soft and fluffy corn bread and a crisp glass of Semillon. Yes.

mmm... I digress. You can use different meats if you like, but it mainly consists of some type of sausages and pork knuckles like ham hocks, or even a bits of a pork shoulder/butt, chicken, and bacon along with rich and creamy beans. As for the meats, I've used all sorts of sausages - pork, chicken, turkey, even blood and merguez. As for the beans, I just LOVE cannelloni beans (or white kidney beans). They're creamy yet meaty and can really stand up to long cooking times. When I'm wanting to rush things, like this recipe, I use canned beans; my favorite for this are Bush's. Now, I've never had to write out my recipes until I started this blog, and I've only gotten through about a third of them so far. This means that this recipes measurements, prep time, or number of servings, won't be so exact. Please bear with me, I'm working on this and I will be better... I promise!

Meanwhile, my friend and dear brother-in-law Jim Chukalas (a great realtor with Weichert in the Newton/Freedon area of New Jersey) asked me for this back then and I completely forgot, til now! So here it is, give it a try and please let me know what you think!

  • large dutch oven, or my personal fav, an enameled cast iron pot/dutch oven
  • wooden and slotted spoons
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
What you need:

  • 3 sausages: pork and/or chicken (I use both; 2 pork, 1 chicken), or any other you like; remove them from the casings
  • chicken: I prefer thighs because they hold up to long cook times better than breasts, plus... all that flava! I used 6 thighs for this recipe, skinless and deboned cut in to pieces; or 4 breasts, cut up. You can always use both white and dark meat, just add the breast towards the end
    I just can't keep her out of my pots!

  • garlic, 8 cloves finely chopped; you can use less if you like
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • celery, 1 stalk rinsed and finely chopped
  • carrots, 2 sticks peeled and finely chopped
  • bacon, 4-6 slices thick cut, or pancetta (I used pancetta this time round just to switch it up)
  • bay leaf, 2
  • olive oil, 2 tablespoons (tbsp)
  • chicken stock, 1 quart plus more if necessary
  • rosemary, 2 stems stripped and finely chopped
  • thyme, 5-7 stems stripped and finely chopped
  • herbs de provence, 3 pinches
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bush's cannelloni (white kidney) beans, 4-5 cans rinsed and drained
* ham hock or small pork butt/shoulder optional (and yummy!), especially if you're using dry beans because they both need longer to cook. remember, this is the 'short cut'; I use pork butt/shoulder when I cook longer, and add the chicken and sausages when I only have about 30 minutes of cooking left. 

What To Do:
  • heat your heavy bottomed pot to medium
  • add olive oil, bacon/pancetta, onion, celery and carrots and sweat for about 10 minutes; add garlic, herbs and bay leaf once the vegetables soften
  • add uncased sausages, diced chicken thighs, and smoked ham hock; break up the sausage with back of wooden spoon, or as best you can
  •  add broth, then beans, then let simmer for 30 minutes until meat is cooked through; 
  • smash some of the beans to help thicken the dish if you like
  • adjust salt and pepper to your liking
  •  **** PORK BUTT OPTION ****
  • if using pork butt/shoulder, you'll want to add it AFTER the veggies and bacon, give it a little color then add the broth, but hold the beans if they're canned step, and let cook til tender, about an hour and have for a pound
  • I served this over rice, with Juan's fluffy buttery corn bread.
  • then add the sausage and chicken in the last 30 minutes or so of cooking.

Again, this is my own version, and somewhat of a short cut at that, but i love it! I serve over rice, or just in a bowl all by it's yummy self. It is bananas on the second and third days. I hope you enjoy and if you have any suggestions or make any changes, please share!!


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