I have another Cassoulet recipe - which I highly recommend - I took the traditional French stew and made it into an Italian stew and you can see it here. But the other day I dec ided to make an authentic French Cassoulet, except for one little ingredient...the duck...there's just no way I can cook with duck - I FEED them from my deck! Caesar-Beezer-The-Wonder-Dog lovingly "speaks" to them each morning! They fly in from Canada and land in the lake behind my house - when there is a lake, after a big rain - and there is no way I can cook them - I don't care how good they are to eat! So, I substituted chicken for duck...and feel no remorse whatsoever. I suppose I should feel remorse for saying this is an authentic Cassoulet recipe..but naw, I don't. I've allowed myself some literary license and a few white lies when it comes to Cassoulet because really, there is no one Cassoulet recipe...there are hundreds and hundreds of them! Every little burg in Southwest France makes their own version of Cassoulet and they use everything from garlic flavored sausage to duck to tripe to trout in their Cassoulet - and they use different beans and even lentils! Gasp! In Carcasonne, where I first had Cassoulet, I met a bearded French chef who had a cleaver hanging from his apron belt...he wanted to know if we liked his Cassoulet...which appeared to be a few beans and duck in a bowl full of some jellied substance...so of course I told him I loved it - I wasn't about to argue with a cleaver-carrying bearded French chef! Over the last 5 years, since I was last in France, I have learned a teensy bit about Cassoulet - I've made it many times, always with chicken and not duck, and each time I've gotten better and better...to where I can now say this is a dang good recipe. And to you French Cassoulet purists out there I say, if a bearded Frenchman can make a Cassoulet with an unnamed jellied substance, then I can make Cassoulet with chicken!
We had some friends over the other night and I served them Cassoulet - it was a rustic French kind of night...the Cassoulet was followed by a rustic Lemon Crostata with fresh raspberries and cream anglaise...and since one dessert is never enough I also served Marie-Claude's Chocolate Cake with Fleur De Sel...in a word...decadent! I'll post that recipe later, along with the viniagrette, which was so light and good!
Cassoulet - Adapted from several recipes, including The Cooking of Southwest France by Pauline Wolfert and Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, diced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 oz. Pancetta, chopped (or you can use bacon)
1 lb. smoked sausage (I used Turkey Kielbasa)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped, plus 4 celery stalks tied in a bundle
2 cans (49 oz.) chicken broth
1 cup good white wine, I used chardonnay
1 lb. dried lentils, rinsed (lentils do not need to be soaked overnight before using)
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
4 large carrots, chopped (to equal 3 cups)
2 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 sprigs fresh parsley, tied with celery
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with celery
2 bay leaves
2 cans Butter Beans (16 oz.) drained and rinsed
2 cans Cannellini Beans (15.5 oz.) drained and rinsed
2 cans White Beans (15.5 oz.) drained and rinsed
Walnut oil to drizzle on top
Fresh parsley to sprinkle on top
Using a piece of kitchen twine, tie the celery pieces and the fresh thyme and fresh parsley together and set aside. In a large Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium high heat and add the leeks, onion, pancetta and smoked sausage. Cook until onions and leeks are softened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken broth, wine, chicken pieces, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the bundle of celery, thyme and parsley, and the bay leaves. Stir in the lentils. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Stir in the canned beans. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 1 hour. When ready to serve, dish up the Cassoulet and drizzle a bit of walnut oil over the top and finish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Makes 12 good-size servings.
The walnut oil, added at the last moment really brightens the beans! Here's what my table looked like -La soirée fut une grande réussite - the party was a great success! (Don't you just love the English-to-French Dictionary on line?!