One of my early L.A. jobs in the Biz was as a videotape editor. Lunch was often in a neighborhood restaurant run by a charming French couple. My favorite dish was a comforting plate of Cassoulet. It reminded me of a rustic home cooked all-in-one dish -- a bean casserole version of Mom's Cajun rice dish, Jambalaya.
A classic Cassoulet is made with confit duck legs, sausage and white beans. The Chef has yet to find duck for 99c or less a pound but chicken quarters from a local Latin market do fine; as for sausage, 99c only Stores always carry it. For a vegetarian version, you can add more large cut veggies and leave out the meat (bouillon, too), but still bake it and top it with bread crumbs -- baking sweetens and intensifies the flavor of veggies and beans.
Ingredients (serves about 4)
- 1 lb. package Navy beans (white) for 99.99 cents
8 cups of water (according to package directions.)
1 cup 99.99c white wine or vegetable broth - optional.
- 1 chicken or beef bouillon cube or powdered ( one tbsp.) - optional.
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried thyme or any favorite fresh or dried herbs.
- 1 each: whole onion, bell pepper, celery stick and carrot chopped (optional, just whatever veggie you have on hand really, including tomato.)
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped, or 2 tbsp. crushed garlic.
- 2 - 3 chicken leg quarters or about 4 - 8 chicken pieces including breast, leg, thigh and wings.
- One 12-16 oz. package 99.99 cent hot links or favorite sausage
- Salt and pepper to taste
Soak beans overnight in 8 cups water (or add an extra hour of cooking time to unsoaked beans). In a large pot (I have one that doubles for baking), add white wine (optional,) chopped veggies, herbs, chicken or beef bouillon (optional,) bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring beans to a boil, cover and continue cooking over low heat until beans are tender, about 2 hours.
Lately I've been adding greens. For quick cooking spinach or Swiss chard add these when you start baking with sausage and chicken. For slower cooking collard, or mustard greens, add during the last hour of boiling beans.
Directions To Finish By Baking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add chicken and sausage to cooked beans. Cooked uncovered in the oven for about an hour and a half until chicken is done (double check by piercing with a fork and juices run clear,) and liquid is reduced. Add water if liquid cooks out.
I bake the chicken skin side up and I add a pinch of salt and pepper to the top of the chicken pieces. That way the skin is crispy and well seasoned when done. You can also remove the skin for a lighter Cassoulet. The sausage may need to be turned if it starts to blacken or brown too much.
For a thick sauce whisk together 1 tbsp. of flour into 1/2 cup of white wine or water and add to Cassoulet during last half hour of baking. If you top with bread crumbs during the last hour, the sauce will thicken on it's own -- so no flour is needed.
Cassoulet freezes fine, so don't let the large amount deter you. It's the type of meal you can return to the next day, and it will be even better!