Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Easy Cassoulet, Or:Ce N'est Pas Francais, Mais Il Est SI Bon!

*Translation for those of you who don't want to head to BabelFish: It isn't French, but it is SO good!

Cassoulet is a traditional French dish that in the original usually contains duck, sausage, bacon and other meats plus beans. You can find lots of elaborate recipes for it all over the web and in any French cookbook.

But cassoulet is a French peasant dish, not a luxury food, and most of the recipes I spot involve meats that may be everyday in France, but here are luxury items. Nor are they low fat, to say the least.

At its most basic, cassoulet is pork and beans, slow cooked in a heavy pot. And this recipe, which I found many years ago in a magazine, may not be authentic, but it is delicious.

I have made this in the slow cooker but this morning I didn't have time to set it up. And the oven recipe calls for soaking the beans overnight, which I didn't do. But when I came home at lunchtime (had to go to a meeting) I had an hour to spare so I put the beans in boiling water for 10 minutes, let them sit for an hour, then dumped them in my slow cooker along with water to cover right before I left again.

Five hours later the beans were so tender that I was able to just dump them in my Dutch oven, add the other prepared ingredients and place it in the oven. And because the beans were cooked, I didn't have to cook it the full 2 hours--one was plenty. Or  you could get the same result by just adding canned white beans.

You could also use chicken breast in place of the pork. If so, I highly recommend using the quicker cooking approach--chicken breast doesn't need long cooking. I've done it that way, but we had a big chunk of pork left over from last week's birthday dinner--and we're pork eaters around here.

Here's the original recipes. Feel free to play with it.
No matter how you do, I'll bet that you'll enjoy this. Bon appetit!


1 lb dry white beans (I used Great Northern)
1-2 lbs boneless pork (chops or shoulder), cubed
1/2 lb  sausage (I use turkey sausage--the sort in the deli meat section) sliced into small pieces
1 onion, cubed (I use the frozen sort)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the jarred kind, a big spoonful)
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 bayleaf
black pepper (to taste)
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 Tbsp  tomato paste

Rinse the beans and soak them overnight in a large pot
or:place the beans in a large pot with 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot that is stove top and oven safe (I use a 3 1/2 qt Dutch oven)
Saute the pork in a large frying pan (add a small amount of oil) until brown on all side, then add it to the beans. Do the same with the onion.
Add the sausage, the garlic, the bayleaf and the thyme to the pot.
Pour in the stock and bring the mixture to a boil on the stove top.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven.  Bake for 1 hour.
Uncover the pan and stir in the tomato paste and the wine, if you're using it. If not, check the amount of liquid in the pan and if needed add 1/2 cup water.
Bake for 1 hour more.

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