Friday, February 6, 2009

Cassoulet, a hearty French bean stew is perfect for cold winter nights


Cassoulet, a hearty, slow-cooked French stew with beans and a variety of meats, is perfect for a cold winter night. It is probably the granddaddy of Boston baked beans and pork. Originating in the south of France, it typically contains duck confit, goose, pork and white beans.  Toulouse and Carcassone are thought to be the capital of Cassoulet. We bought Cassoulet containing sausage, goose, duck confit and lamb in a glass jar in our favorite Boucherie shop in France and found it to be of excellent quality.

In our kitchen we are fond of black-eyed peas as opposed to white beans because they give it a deep, rich flavor that instantly transports us to the tiny smoky cafes of France. In the recipe below, I’ve substituted chicken to give it a modern and lighter touch. 

Green beans with slivered almonds sautéed in butter make a pretty side dish and can be prepared while the Cassoulet cooks for the last fifteen minutes. 



Cassoulet

1 lb black eyed peas or Great Northern beans
3 bay leaves
2 large chicken breasts with bones & skin
4 oz thick bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces, cooked but not crisp (reserve 1 tablespoon fat)
8 oz little link sausages, such as Little Sizzlers, cooked & cut into 1” pieces
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped with juices
1 cup dry white whine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup (or more) dried fresh home-made bread crumbs
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter


Soak beans overnight in water. Drain and put into a pot with fresh water to cover by four inches. Add bay leaves, bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain beans, discard bay leaf and add salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Put into an attractive oven-proof casserole you can use for serving as well as cooking. 

Preheat oven to 350. Rub chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 35-45 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from oven, discard skin and bones and cut into one inch pieces. Add to beans along with cooked bacon and cut up sausages.

Sauté the garlic in a skillet in about 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer 5 minutes. Add wine and chicken broth and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over the bean mixture and blend well. Mix bread crumbs with softened butter and spread over beans to make a crust. 

Place beans in a 325 degree oven and bake, covered, for 45 – 60 minutes. If beans get dry, carefully add more broth while not disturbing crumb crust. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until crumb topping is browned. Serves 4 to 6.

17 comments:

  1. This looks delicious and comforting - perfect for this cold weather.

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  2. This looks fabulous, I pulled a recipe for cassoulet out of a recent issue of Saveur, I haven't made it yet though.

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  3. Sam - I was just thinking about cassoulet the other day. I like your idea about black eyed peas. Kind of a Southern take on the dish. Will give it a try! Thanks

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  4. Oh my goodness this looks good! This is definitely a comfort food! I'm thinking I might make this during our next big cold snap. Bet it heats up wonderfully!
    YUM!

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  5. That sounds wonderful. Thanks for the recipe. I found you through a comment you left on another blog. I too live in NC. Hendersonville actually. I love to cook and am always looking for great recipes. I belong to a wine and dine dinner group and love to pair great wines with amazing foods.
    Penny

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  6. This sounds really good. I'm trying to get more beans in our diet and this one sounds perfect for a cold New York winter night.

    Thanks so much for stopping by for a visit.

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  7. I love cassoulet (as does my French husband) but have never gotten up the courage to make it myself. Yours looks wonderful and the recipe does seem doable. Hmmm....

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  8. I always loved the sound of Cassoulet...sounds so eloquent...I will have to make this dish with my twist :)

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  9. Sam,
    Thank you so much for signing up to follow me, I am honored. I am so impressed with this dish. I've thought about making cassoulet before but lack the patience (No, I don't so much lack the patience, but my kids lack the patience I should say) Someday I'll make it...

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  10. I've never had a cassoulet before but I know I would love it. Total comfort food.

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  11. Yum! Bacon, sausage and chicken! That is my kind of meal!

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  12. That looks delicious! Yum!

    Come visit me at www.aduckinherpond.com.

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  13. This look so warm and cozy - I love the flavors! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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  14. I'm not familiar with cassoulet. It looks delicious :)

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  15. This looks very delicious! Love the breadcrumbs on top!

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  16. I can't wait to try this. Living in the northeast, I don't see black eyed peas often. But I remember them from my childhood when my mother and grandmother would fix them with ham with cornbread on the side.

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  17. I love cassoulet and it just the perfect meal for cold Winter nights. Thanks for posting such perfect food

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam