Cassoulet, take me away!

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Cassoulet is one of those dishes if done right keeps you coming back for more. Fortunately, my first experience with cassoulet was a good one, and as authentic as they came. In September, I was fortunate enough to be in Paris, France. We made our stops at Berthillon, Pierre Herme, and Poilane. But my heart yearned for this bean stew native to the south of France. One of my aunts whom we visited there heard my call and set down a large dutch oven in front of me that I will never forget.

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The stew was filled with white beans, tender chunks of lamb, and Toulouse sausages that were garlicky and smoky all the same. I couldn’t bare to go home and never taste it again, so she froze some in a Rubbermaid, and I hid it in my luggage just before departing for home. Shh, don’t tell anyone 😉

I went home with one mission: to prepare a cassoulet of equal calibre. That hefty mission unfortunately held me back for a couple of months. Toulouse sausages are not that easy to come by folks, and that discouraged me. Then I started watching food network, and noticed the rise in popularity of this somewhat unknown dish in North America. Many of the chefs made substitutions, and I figured I’d do the same.

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The outcome was spot on. The flavours were there, and I was feasting on cassoulet for a week. My friends, some who were familiar with the dish and others who weren’t, enjoyed it too! Remember, cassoulet always tastes better the day after when it has had time to allow its flavours to marry 🙂

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Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

900g of White Kidney Beans Soaked Overnight

4 strips of smoked bacon diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons of duck fat

1 large onion diced

2 large carrots cut into half inch cubes

4 stalks celery cut into half inch cubes

6 garlic cloves minced

Half a can of tomato paste

3 sprigs of parsley

5 sprigs of thyme

I sprig of rosemary

2 bay leafs

1 cup of white wine

6 sweet Italian Sausages (or Touluse if you can find them)

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into large pieces (4 pieces per thigh)

1.5 L chicken stock (or enough to cover the beans)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Soak the white beans overnight. If in a time crunch, place white beans in a pot and cover by 3 inches of water, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, turn off heat, and let beans stand covered for 1 hour.

2. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil and brown sausages. Remove sausages when brown on all sides (its okay if they are still pink in the middle).

3. Season chicken thigh pieces with salt and pepper and brown in remaining olive oil. Remove from pan (its okay if they are still pink in the middle).

4. Next, add smoked bacon to the pan. Fry until golden, and visible drippings form in pan. Add duck fat, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and all herbs to the pan. Sautee until onions are translucent.

5. Add tomato paste, and cook mixture for 10 minutes. The oil in the pan should take on the tinge of the tomato, and the paste should caramelize.

6. Deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping the bottom to bring up fondant (caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan)

7. Add beans, chicken stock, and season liberally with salt and pepper.

8. Return sausages, and chicken to the dutch oven.

9. Cover, and cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until beans become tender, and liquid reduces slightly.

10. Serve with crusty French bread

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One Response

  1. It was very delicious. 🙂

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