Tuesday, March 1, 2011

French Cassoulet - serves 6

What a magnificent day!  Not only is the weather amazing, but today marks one year that I retired from the corporate world to pursue a career in cooking.  So far, so good and today makes me love my job.  As I sit outside in my beautiful backyard, Spring is sprouting.  Green buds are appearing on the trees, flurries of grass are poking their heads from the ground and the brown that once consumed our flower beds are showing signs of color. I've prepped my garden which is coming out of hibernation and to my joy, a new harvest of arugula, herbs and fennel are starting to take shape.  This year I will have so much arugula I could possibly sell to our local grocery store for profit. I have a new bounty to try this year that I hope will only add to my repertoire; beets, eggplant, okra and more lettuces.  I prepared this meal last night with hopes that we have reached our last night in the '30's, a hopeful farewell to a bitter, cold winter. (Cassoulet is a French dish made with sausage and Navy beans.) With a new sprig of oregano to top off the going away party, here's to a bountiful Texas spring and food, wine and good friends to go with it.


1 tbs olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 tomato, chopped, or one 8oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
3 15 oz cans great Northern cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Remove and drain on paper towels; set aside.
Pour the excess oil from the Dutch oven.  Add the chicken broth, vegetables, beans, thyme, salt, pepper, a third of the garlic, and the sausage and return to heat.  Mix well, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour or until thickened and the vegetables are tender.
Heat the oven to 400.  In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, butter and remaining garlic.  Sprinkle evenly over the cassoulet and place in the oven.  Bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  Can be refrigerated up to 2 days and frozen up to 4 months.

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