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Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1205
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:48 pm    Post subject: cassoulet Reply with quote

Hen House Cassoulet

Cassoulet, in my simple terms, is a vegetable ladened, white bean casserole with really tasty chunks of meat. Recipes abound, in my travels I find it's essentially four or five tons of pork fat (or duck...) strung together with vegetables.
I love baked beans, but prefer a 'non tomato base' white bean dish for a refreshing change.

So I set out to trim the fat, so to speak.

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1/2 pound pork sausage - link style, cut into bite size chunks
one whole chicken - about a 4 pounder
- cut up: legs, breast, wings (remove tips)
- cut out the backbone, keel bone and small rib bones from the breast chunks
- do not remove the skin from any of the chicken
1-1/2 cup white beans; I prefer Great Northern, I think the size works well for texture
1 cup sliced yellow onion or scallion or mixed
1 cup sliced leek, including firm green
1 cup small chop celery
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, large chop
2-3 smashed & chopped garlic cloves
seasonings - salt, pepper, delay other seasoning until the dish is more done

Getting There from Here:
soak the beans in a generous amount of cold water 3-4 hours, then
in a heavy pan, brown the sausage - some dark brown coloring is good
remove sausage, pour off excess fat, brown/caramelize the onion
- use additional olive/vegetable oil as needed, salt & pepper lightly
add celery and carrots and continue cooking 15-20 minutes; add water to make a bit of steam
add garlic
drain the beans, add the beans to the pot
add some water - about half the depth of the stuff in the pot, cover, let simmer very gently.

while that is simmering, in a heavy pot get about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil smoking hot - really hot
brown the chicken pieces 3-4 minutes per side
nestle the chicken pieces in the bean/vegetable mix
add water, alternately half white wine / half water, to just cover
continue a gentle simmer for 2-3 hours
CHECK the liquid level as it cooks
- the beans will absorb water; add water to maintain a loose mixture
About an hour into the simmer, add seasoning:
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- cayenne pepper to your own tastes
- re-taste for salt.

The Trick:
Two of them, actually.

(1) pick your sausage well. it needs to have good flavor that will carry through the dish. my first attempt was a mild mannered breakfast link sausage - not recommended. the big long curls of italian style sausage are good; I use sweet, but 'hot' is an option if you like it. since I don't need fifty feet of sausage, I buy a chunk at my butcher. I've tried a number of dried / cured sausages and find they become hard chewy 'what's this?' chunks in the end dish - a 'fresh' sausage is a better approach in my experience.

(2) close your eyes and get the chicken browning oil blazing hot. the theory is to get crispy skin with a bloody red raw interior. do not overload the pot; have a spatter shield / lid at the ready - lacking that this operation will coat everything within three feet with spattered oil / vapor. I prefer to do this in a sauce pan to minimize spatter.

The "I Don't Do Skin Issue"
the chicken skin will "self peel" when the dish is done / during service - but that crispy skin adds a lot of flavor to the dish. I most insistently insist you keep the skin on and crisp it as outlined. if you've got a no skinner, don't tell them - just let the skin slip off as you pull the morsels out of the pot.
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