You must read this whole post in a very bad cartoonish French accent. Unless of course, you are French or French Canadian in which case I would appreciate you trying to read this in sayyyyyy, a Russian accent, just to shake things up a little. Of course, if you can manage an Antarctic accent, I’d REALLY be impressed. Mind you, I have no Earthly idea what that would sound like (Polar Bear maybe?) but that’s what would make it impressive.
I know y’all are used to coming here for decadent treats and things that make you fat just reading about them but every once in a while I like to post something different. If for no other reason than to make you cry. I mean, if for no other reason than to prove I can.
Having been a foodie for years if not a food blogger, there aren’t a whole lots of foods I haven’t tried. Ok, so I haven’t tried Fugu and I never will. Nor have I had Caviar… again by choice. And while I bought a bottle of Truffle Oil a few months back, I haven’t used it yet because I can’t get past the fact that it smells like old gym shoes one would find in a teenage boys locker. But you know what I mean. At 47, I’ve eaten a lot of different foods.
But one I had never tried until now was Cassoulet. I had read nine gazillion recipes for it, had seen it on menus, had heard others talk about it here and there, but had never made it or eaten it. I think I was scared off by the recipes that usually had 322 directions and 58 ingredients. It just seemed too much trouble. And I won’t lie. For all that this is considered “French Peasant Food” by many, aka NOT the kind of food one would find in a fancy restaurant, but one one would find in the homes of the locals, it WAS a bit of work. One pot meal? Yes. One pot to prep? No. Plus lots of step by step prep work. As for the taste, read the recipe, see if you want to make it yourself and then scroll down for MY opinion of cassoulet.
So now I can say I have had cassoulet. I can also add it to my repertoire of foods I have cooked. So, if like me, you always thought it was too much trouble, give it a try. Let me know what you think of this famous dish.
1 cup Kosher salt or 1/2 cup table salt
1 cup Granulated sugar
10 bone in chicken thighs (about 3 1/2 pounds), skin and excess fat removed
6 slices High-quality sandwich bread , cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter , melted
1 pound Dried flageolet beans or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
1 Medium onion , peeled and left whole
1 Medium head garlic , outer papery skin removed and top 1/2 inch sliced off
1 teaspoon Table salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground black pepper
6 slices Bacon (about 6 ounces), chopped medium
1 pound Boneless pork loin roast (blade-end), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Small onion , chopped fine
2 Medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
1 tablespoon Tomato paste
1 sprig Fresh thyme ( I subbed 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon Ground cloves
Ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups Chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup Dry white wine (I used a dry Riesling)
1/2 pound Kielbasa sausage , halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1. Brining the Chicken: In gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag, dissolve salt and sugar in 1 quart cold water. Add chicken, pressing out as much air as possible; seal and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour. Remove chicken from brine, rinse thoroughly under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preparing the Topping: While chicken is brining, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix bread crumbs and butter in small baking dish. Bake, tossing occasionally, until light golden brown and crisp, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature; set aside.
3. Bring the beans, whole onion, garlic head, salt, pepper and 8 cups water to a boil in a stockpot or Dutch oven over high heat.Turn your oven off for now. You won’t need it for a while.
4. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the beans are almost fully tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain the beans and discard the onion and garlic.
5. While the beans are cooking, fry the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just beginning to crisp and most of the fat has rendered, 5 to 6 minutes.
6. Using a slotted spoon, add half of the bacon to the pot with the beans; transfer the remaining bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high; when the bacon fat is shimmering, add half of the chicken thighs, fleshy-side down; cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
7. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate; repeat with remaining thighs and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot.
8. Return pot to medium heat; add pork pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add minced garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, and pepper to taste; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
9. Stir in chicken broth and wine, scraping up browned bits off bottom of pot with wooden spoon. Submerge the chicken in the pot, adding any accumulated juices. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes.
10. Remove the cover and continue to simmer until the chicken and pork are fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes more. Preheat your oven to 425.
11. Gently stir the kielbasa, drained beans and reserved bacon into the pot with the chicken and pork; remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the croutons evenly over the surface and bake at 425, uncovered, until the flavors have melded and the croutons are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.
Now for what I thought of it. Whenever it’s a recipe I haven’t made up or adapted to my own likes, I like to say what I thought of it and since I made this by the recipe, here you go.
Brutal honesty? I don’t think I’ll be making this again. It was a lot of work to make for a dish that to be honest, had very little flavor. I found myself wanting to dump a cup of Franks Red Hot Sauce on it. Not for the heat, but to give this a little pizzazz. I know it’s SUPPOSED to be fairly plain standard country food but it was just…. bland. The meat was wonderfully tender, the beans were fine so each separate component was good but put together the sum of the WHOLE didn’t equal the sum of the PARTS in this case.
So I can say I have tried cassoulet. It wasn’t horrible by any means… but I guess I just like foods with more layers of flavor. But please… give this a try! You aren’t me and you may love it!