Well, this happens sometimes. I end up eating really late. It isn’t intentional, but I get busy doing things and still need dinner. Of course these time are usually when I have some long cooking dinner in the works. Tonight would certainly fall under that heading. I sort of had a feeling it might. I had a family thing to go to, and had planned to pop in, and split in fairly short order. I had hoped to be home, cooking by about 6, and instead didn’t get home until 7pm. It also took a bit longer than I expected to cook the beans, but in the end it was all worth it!
One of the best things about the internet is the abundance of information about cooking, recipes, and food. Michael Ruhlman, Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert, and Mark Bittman just to name a few. I follow these, and several others on Twitter, and they all send out interesting messages, recipes, and today I adapted a post from Mark Bittman. Really, my biggest change to his recipe was to skip the bulk of the meats and just use a couple of chicken legs.
1/2 pound of dry cannellini beans soaked overnight
2 chicken leg quarters
2 cloves of garlic
2 onions cut into half inch dice
2 sticks of celery half inch dice
2 carrots half inch dice
1 zucchini half inch dice
salt and pepper
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dry thyme
handful fresh parsley chopped
1 quart of chicken stock plus a little water
Since I had my beans soaked last night, and I broke down the chicken to get the legs I was more or less in assembly mode tonight. Step one, heat some oil in the large pot, and brown the chicken a bit. I could have given them a bit more time to brown a bit more, and that might have added a bit to the flavor, but in the end it was pretty good.
Then add the beans and enough stock to cover everything. This took about a quart for me. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer.This will need to simmer for about an hour. In the mean time, take your diced vegetables, and sweat them in a large skillet. You’re looking for them to start to get nice and tender, but not brown. A little salt is helpful when you are sweating veggies since it draws out moisture. Once they are tender I added the tomatoes, and herbs, and got everything hot, and also reduced the liquid a bit from the tomatoes and whatever came out of the veggies.
Once I had been simmering the beans for about an hour, and the veggies were softened and hot I added the veggies to the beans. Then I returned the pot to a boil, and turned it back to a simmer. This is where patience started to come into play. Everything really started to smell great. Cannellini beans take time to cook, and if you want to do this right you will let them take the time they need. You will be rewarded.My beans took another 30 minutes to finish cooking. They were tender, and not the least bit chalky. After an hour and a half simmering in the stock, and with all of the veggies the chicken was so tender that grabbing a leg bone to fish it out would leave you with no meat at all! That was dinner, and although it was certainly different than the cassoulet that I have had in the past I would certainly be happy to eat it again. That is a good thing, because I have plenty! Next time I make it I will probably find some turkey sausages that I can throw in there, and make it a bit more traditional. Traditional or not this was very tasty. Personally I always find this kind of long, slow cooking process very rewarding. It always seems to pay off in the end with a ton of flavor, and actually is fairly simple to do as long as you give yourself the time to take on the challenge. I ended up having dinner a little later than I would have liked, but it was great, and gluten-free. Hope you all enjoy it.
Edit: One thing I kind of forgot this morning at 2 am when I was finishing this up is a link back to day one, just in case you haven’t read it yet.
I had my first experience cassoulet at work. Cannellini beans, pork sausages, duck confit. It was one of the more life changing experiences I have had as far as food goes. However, duck legs are out of my budget. I bought the Les Halles cookbook specifically for the cassoulet recipe. Obviously, I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain, and have made several recipes from the book, but the NOT cassoulet! The poulet basquaise I made for Amy’s birthday is from the book. I adapt the recipe for vichyssoise at work, and it is fantastic.
Cassoulet is a bean stew. There’s really not a lot to it. A little mirepoix, beans, duck, pork, stock, and some herbs. Where I get into trouble is the duck, and the pork. Although I enjoy duck and pork Amy does not, at all. I found a recipe that I think I can make work, and I’m going to substitute what I can afford and what she’ll eat and go from there.
Since we are cooking with beans I am starting this early. Cassoulet will be tomorrow’s dinner.
When you have a project like this the best way to handle it is to break it into small steps. For example, if I was going to have duck confit as part of the dish I would have rubbed it with salt, and let it cure overnight in the fridge, yesterday. Today I would have cooked the confit. Confit is essentially cooking the legs by poaching them in a fat. In this case you would use duck fat, although you could use canola oil in addition to the duck fat that would come out of the legs. This is kind of cheating, but it will save you money buying duck fat or eating enough duck that you can render and save enough fat to cover the legs that you have. Confit is a long, slow cooking process, and is not frying. I am going to use chicken legs, and essentially braise them in the cassoulet, not quite traditional, but I’m on a budget, and cooking for someone who found the dish interesting, and doesn’t like duck or pork. (I’ve made peace with this, most of the time.) I do feel a bit conflicted about this, but like I said budget is an issue. I may pick up some turkey sausage tomorrow to at least move things in a little more traditional direction.
Today’s task is to rinse and soak the cannellini beans. Cannellinis are one of the more traditional beans used in the cassoulet recipes I have seen. (The Les Halles cookbook calls for Tarbais beans, but they are outrageously expensive! [$16-21/pound!]) Realistically, I could break down the chicken, and chop all of the veggies tonight as well. I’m not quite feeling that motivated though. That will be taken care of tomorrow some time.
Anyway, stick with me, and I think you will enjoy this quite a bit. The recipe I am using is a bit lighter, and includes more vegetables. This is probably more in line with how the dish would have been made originally. In a restaurant more meat means that you can charge more, and also creates the impression of better value. This is a dish that would have been made by people who needed a hearty, cheap meal. Meat, would have been in it, but not tons of it. So, in some ways we’re going to go back to that.
If you’d like to see how this dish came out, Day Two awaits!