This dish is in the running for a spot on my birthday dinner menu ! Yes, it is basically beans in a pot, but not just any old pot of beans – cassoulet! These beans are slow cooked with all sorts of magical ingredients until they are full of flavour & slightly (ok, very) addictive.
On first glance, this looks like one of those cold-winter-day type meals, but it would be equally appropriate for a sunny summer evening (preferrably outdoors somewhere in the south of France…). Or a drizzly pacific northwest winter/spring/fall day. What I’m trying to say is: eat this year round, it’s amazing! We enjoyed our cassoulet with a simple salad of mixed greens and lemon caper vinaigrette. Over to Tim for the recipe….Bon appétit!
I love making things from scratch – homemade bread, pasta, and cheese come to mind. But, those are weekend activities. During the week I want something that makes me excited to cook and eat, without the 4 hours in the kitchen. Cassoulet isn’t normally one of those things – but with a few shortcuts, it can be. So, don’t turn your nose up about using canned beans and canned tomatoes – they can make amazing quick meals.
Quick Cassoulet Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
1 teaspoon of olive oil
150 grams of cubed or sliced Pancetta (1/8 inch cubes)
2 carrots, diced
1 medium white onion, sliced.
8 cloves of garlic, minced (yes 8!!)
1 cup of white wine
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 oregano sprigs
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 tin of diced tomatoes (796 mL or about 4 fresh tomatoes), drained
2 tins of white kidney beans (510mL each), drained
salt and pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (they don’t need to be panko)
3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Add the oil and pancetta to a cold, oven safe pot. If you start bacon or pancetta with a bit of oil in a cold pan it won’t stick. Turn on your burner to medium-high heat. Cook until the pancetta forms a little crust – about 5 minutes. Add your carrots and onion to the pot and turn the heat down to medium. We are trying to make these onions and carrots nice and sweet, so we want to coax the moisture out of them slowly. Add a pinch of salt. Cook for about 7 minutes and don’t let them brown. Add your garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Ok, now we need to speed this up! Crank it up to high heat. Add your wine and let it reduce to almost nothing – to the point that the onion will start to stick to the bottom a little. Add the bay leaves, thyme and oregano and then quickly add your chicken stock. Let it cook until the stock is reduced by half. Drain your canned tomatoes and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add your beans.
In a bowl, mix your parmesan, bread crumbs and olive oil. Once the beans come to a simmer, have a taste and add your salt and pepper. They should taste good at this point. Turn off the heat and sprinkle on the bread crumb topping. If you need some more bread crumbs because your pot’s surface area is bigger than mine, go for it. Also, you can add some thyme leaves to this bread crumb mixture or even some lemon zest. Place in the hot oven for 15 minutes or until the crumbs are crisp and golden. Top with something green, if you like – I used some chives I had on hand, but you could use some of the thyme or oregano.
Traditionally, cassoulet is served with confit goose or duck legs – so pull the confit out of your fridge. Really? French peasant food, and it requires confit duck?!? In case you didn’t have time to render duck fat, and slowly simmer the legs in it – just use an oven baked chicken breast and a couple of fresh sausages. Actually, there are no rules – serve it as-is with a salad and some bread. This should have come together in under an hour, but it will taste like it has been simmering all day. Enjoy!