Friday, December 5, 2008

French Cassoulet - Baked Beans, Chicken & Sausage

The Chef is a Francophile. I like movies by Jean-Luc Godard, ye-ye pop music by Serge Gainsbourg, pommes frites (yes, French fries), and Cassoulet: a slow-cooked hearty bean dish.

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. I've 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.

A French mirepoix of veggies include: onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot and celery. They will sweeten this stew with slow cooking on the stove top and in the oven.

For a vegetarian version, you can add more large cut veggies (carrots, potato) and leave out the meat (veggie stock instead of meat flavored bouillon,) but still bake it and top it with bread crumbs -- baking sweetens and intensifies the flavor of veggies and beans.

 Cassoulet can be a clean-out-your-refrigerator-of-veggies dish (I like to add more veggies than normal  recipes call for).

On a cold winter day, try out this simple baked bean entree that tastes even better reheated the next day. The 99 Cent Chef's Cassoulet would make Julia Child proud.

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
*A nice touch is to add a layer of bread crumbs (about 1/2 cup) on top during final hour of oven baking.

Directions For Beans
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 to 3 hours. 

Lately I've been adding greens. For quick-cooking spinach, or Swiss chard, add these when you start baking the 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. You can also just mash some of the cooked beans and stir into Cassoulet.

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. And it's the type of meal you can return to the next day -  it will be even better!


Anonymous said...

Was it La Poubelle near gower?

99 Cent Chef said...

Long since closed, the French restaurant was next door to "King and I" Siamese Restaurant on La Cienega and Wilshire Blvd.

CCBusBabe said...

I would love it if you could figure out how to adapt this dish for the slow cooker.

If you do, I will share my awesome red beans & rice recipe (all 99.99 cent store stuff except for the ham hocks)

99 Cent Chef said...

Not sure about slow cookers but everything is the same (leave out bread crumbs as they will be too soggy, other than that, try it!)
After beans are done add chicken & sausage and cook meat until done.

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