Monday, November 3, 2008

Classic cassoulet

“Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the southwest of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton, and pork skin. The dish is named after the cassole, the distinctive deep round earthenware pot with slanting sides in which cassoulet is ideally cooked.”

The above is courtesy of wikipedia, as is the picture.

Peter went out of town yesterday and I made myself a double helping of cassoulet, according to my own plan, though influenced by a published recipe. Good golly was it satisfying!

I may have mentioned the other day that I had some pork cuttings I cured in the same solution one uses to make corned beef. It essentially turned out to be like ham. Instead of using fatback or some other pork cut for my cassoulet I used my homemade product. If I hadn’t had it, I would have simply used bacon.

For the purposes of the recipe below I have doubled what I made yesterday. It would be enough to serve 4, or 2 meals for 2 people. There seemed to be little purpose to going to all this trouble (mostly just time cooking) for a single serving.

I will make this for Peter just as soon as the weather chills down again. As for me, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more than I did even in spite of the outside evening temp being about 60°.

For the beans I used the remains of a package of frozen black-eyed peas. Use fresh dried beans if you wish, but it just makes the prep more laborious. The sausages I chose were a brat-like Italian-style link sausage.

4 strips thick-cut bacon
4 sausages, your favorite kind
1 medium onion, quartered
2 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
3 cloves garlic, sliced thick
2 red-skin potatoes, quartered, skins left on
1 qt. chicken stock
1 lb. frozen black-eyed peas
1 14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper
bouquet garni (1 sprig parsley, 1 stalk celery, 1 sprig thyme, bay leaf, tied together in a bundle)
½ cup fresh bread crumbs

In a cast iron pot, render bacon. Remove and set aside.

Brown the sausages in the bacon faat. Remove and set aside.

When you quarter the onion, just trim the visible roots, trim the top, but leave the thick root-end part on so that it will hold the quarters together. This is largely a presentation thing, so if you want slice the onions in thick pieces.

Add the carrots and onion and cook over moderate heat, turning the onion pieces occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add, potatoes, the bouquet garni, and bacon. Add just enough stock to come up to the level of the vegetables and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the casserole and gently simmer over low heat for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add the frozen black-eyed peas and sausage after 45 minutes, increasing the heat briefly to get back to a simmer.

Bring the tomatoes to a simmer in a saucepan and preheat the oven to 325°.

Stir the tomatoes into the casserole and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Add more broth if necessary. It probably won’t be if you use the tomatoes with their juice. Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour longer, removing the lid for the final 30 minutes. It is done when the bread crumb topping is well-browned. Remove from the oven, discard the bouquet garni, check the seasonings, and allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes before serving.

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