Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cassoulet: the Fancy Chile

Chile... it has some negative connotations. Sloppy, greasy, man food comes to mind. Don't get me wrong, I like chile. When done well it can be very delicious. It doesn't, however, bring to mind fine dining. But call it cassoulet.... well! Now that's different! Suddenly we picture little French villages in the countryside, families sitting together cupping bowls of warming nourishment in their hands. But really, cassoulet is just chile... without the chiles.

Here is my hodgepodge version of the dish. Not exactly traditional, (those French villagers might find offense), but more or less the same in spirit.
  • Get yourself a nice pot. Enameled cast iron is great if you have one, but any pot will do.
  • Uncase two italian sausages: slice them open and turn the inside out into the pot. Brown the meat a bit, rendering some of the fat, while stirring frequently.
  • Add one clove of minced garlic, one chopped onion, and 1/2 tsp each of rosemary, thyme, and salt.
  • After 3-5 minutes, add 1/3 to 1/2 c. white wine (nothing too fruity).
  • Simmer until the liquid is nearly gone.
  • Add 1 cup of beans* and one cup of vegetable broth.
  • Cover and simmer on low heat until the liquid has reduced and the beans are cooked, about 1 hour.
  • If you have a gruyere or parmesan rind (always save these) lying around, feel free to toss it in. It adds a wonderful creaminess and depth to the stew. You will fish out the rind before serving.
  • After the hour, add about 1/2 c. of a thick tomato sauce and 1/4 c. chopped parsley.
  • Simmer an additional 10 min. with the lid off.
  • Lastly, just before serving, add 1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
* Note that I used fresh cranberry beans, not dried. If using dried, I would recommend soaking them first. Other kinds of beans can, of course, be substituted.

Serve and enjoy!

- Rori

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