Monday, December 19, 2011

A Quick and Easy Cassoulet Recipe – Pork & Beans with Benefits

Of course you can’t make a real cassoulet in an hour, but you can make this very acceptable cheater version, and as long as you manage expectations, you’re in for a great, cold-weather meal.

Real cassoulet is an involved process, with several days of prep just to make the various meats served in this rustic bean casserole. Once everything is prepared, the dish bakes for hours, during which time the ritualistic crust forming and re-forming occurs.

Buttery breadcrumbs are scatted over the top, and when they form a crusty, golden brown layer, they’re pushed down into the bubbling mixture, and new crumbs applied. This is done several times, creating the dish’s signature texture. A creamy, aromatic, not-too-wet-or-too-dry bean mixture into which is suspended the chunks of succulent meat.

Here, we’re taking lots of short cuts. Chicken thighs replace the classic, and time-consuming, duck confit; canned beans replace dried; and bacon serves as a convenient substitute for other, more involved smoked pork options.

While it will be tempting to dig right into this as soon as the final “gratin” is formed, please follow the advice in the video, and let your cassoulet rest in the hot oven for 15 minutes. This will allow the beans and buttery crumbs to absorb the last of the excess liquid, and make for a better texture.

By the way, please adjust your seasoning depending on the sausage used. Mine was plenty garlicky, so I didn’t add any additional cloves. You’ll also have to taste and alter the salt, depending on whether your bacon and sausage shared enough with the rest of the ingredients. I hope you give this hearty, cold-weather classic a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
4 oz bacon, sliced
8 oz spicy, garlicky, smoked pork sausage, sliced
12 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth, or as needed
2 (15-oz) can white beans, drained, rinsed
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
cayenne to taste
4 tbsp melted butter
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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