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crazy lady

bouquets garnis

A cassoulet, which originated in the south of France, is a hearty cold-weather meal filled with meats and baked in a thick stew of beans and vegetables.  So why am I making a cassoulet when it is 109 degrees outside?  Answer – because I’m crazy, that’s why! Actually, along with the craziness, there is a practical reason.  I had just less than a pound of leftover lamb cut from a shank that I used for THIS RECIPE.  And I know, without a doubt, that if I tucked it into the freezer and waited till fall to make the cassoulet, it would be lost forever in the depths of my freezer and eventually thrown away.

Cassoulets generally take between 6  – 8 hours to prepare… plus the overnight soaking of the beans.  I’ve pared this down to about 3 hours and with only 1 hour of bean soaking time.  For that reason I am calling this a quick cassoulet, although 3 + 1 hours isn’t exactly quick, I know!  Bookmark this for winter and you’ll enjoy having the kitchen all warm and aromatic for that length of time, I promise. This recipe can be easily doubled or even tripled to serve a crowd.

Quick Cassoulet

5 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry navy beans, presoaked * see note below
3 slices thick bacon
5 ounces sausage links of your choice (I used a chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s)
1 small onion, unpeeled, cut in half
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bouquets garnis ** see note below
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound boneless pork loin, cut into large cubes
1/2 pound  boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into large cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup peeled and diced carrots
1/3 cup cubed sweet potatoes or parsnips
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 cups beef broth
1/3 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
1 cup bread crumbs from a good crusty loaf
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan and add the beans and bacon. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are nearly tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile; season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in another large saucepan or skillet. Sear the lamb in the oil on all sides, turning as necessary, until deep brown. Transfer the meat to a plate and set it aside.

 

To the pot of beans; add the sausage, onion, garlic, and bouquet garni. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook until the bacon is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the onion, garlic, and bouquet garni. Remove and reserve the sausage and bacon and slice the sausage into 1/4-inch slices and chop the bacon, set aside.

 

Season the beans with salt and pepper to taste continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Lift out the beans with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Continue to simmer until the liquid reduces by half (to about 1 cup) and is beginning to thicken for about 20 minutes. Reserve the sauce.

To the pan the lamb was cooked in; add the leeks, carrots, and potatoes to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until the flour is cooked, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine and 1 cup of beef broth to the vegetable/flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Stir in the tomatoes and the second bouquet garni. Return the seared lamb to the pot, along with any juices they may have collected on the plate. Add more beef broth if necessary to keep the meat completely moistened. Bring to a slow simmer over medium-low heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the casserole and braise the lamb in the oven, skimming the surface as necessary, until the meat is fork-tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove the casserole from the oven and add the reserved sausage and bacon to the casserole. Cover the meat with the reserved beans. 

Pour the sauce from the beans over the cassoulet. Toss together the bread crumbs and parsley and sprinkle in an even layer over the top.

Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake, uncovered, periodically basting the crust with the juices that bubble up at the sides of the casserole, until a good crust has formed, about 30 to 45 minutes. 

Let the cassoulet rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve in heated bowls with warm crusty bread. (Discard the bouquet garni when you stumble upon it)

Serves 4

* Note:  Rinse beans in cold water. Put them in a large pot and cover with about 3-inches of cold water. Bring almost to a boil; cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain. The beans will be “soaked” and ready to cook.

** Note: (pictured at top of page)  For bouquet garni: Take two sprigs of each – parsley, rosemary, thyme, and oregano; bunch together and wrap a fresh bay leaf around. Use kitchen string to tie together into a little bundle. (if using a dry bay leaf, tuck it in the center of the fresh herbs instead of wrapping around, it will not wrap and would just break apart)


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1 comment

1 Marissa { 07.28.11 at 11:19 AM }

I like the title of this post haha

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