cassoulet

Mark Bittman’s Slow Cooker Cassoulet

by Anne Maxfield on April 7, 2016

Locavore Slow Cooker CassouletCassoulet, slow cooker, all ingredients on hand, cold weather, dinner, time for the Accidental Locavore to start cooking! This recipe was on the NY Times Cooking site and serves 4 or more.

  • ½ pound dried small white beans, like pea or navy
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes, with their juice (canned are fine)
  • 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ pound slab bacon or salt pork, in 1 piece
  • 4 sweet Italian sausages, about 3/4 pound
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 duck legs (confit if possible)
  • Chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water, or a mixture, as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs, optional
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Combine beans, crushed garlic, onion, carrots, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and meats in a slow cooker, and turn heat to high. You can brown the sausages and duck legs in a skillet before, if you’d like. Add stock or water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and cook until beans and meats are tender, 5 to 6 hours on high heat, 7 hours or more on low.

When done, add salt and pepper to taste, along with minced garlic. If you like, remove cassoulet from slow cooker, and place in a deep casserole; cover with bread crumbs and roast at 400 ° until bread crumbs brown, about 15 minutes. Garnish, serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Mark Bittman's CassouletMy verdict: Three caveats before I begin: I’ve never been a big fan of Mark Bittman, but was intrigued by the idea of an easy cassoulet. If you think something is weird in a recipe, trust your gut and figure out a work-around. Finally, you have to cook with love and if you don’t things never taste as good. This was made in a series of bad-mood days and it was reflected in the finished product.

You’ve probably gotten the idea that this wasn’t one of my better meals. As a matter of fact, it was one of the worst. It started out with good ingredients, beautiful dried beans, sausages (breakfast, not Italian – really Mark?) from Four Legs Farm, ditto the pork shoulder. I had homemade duck legs confit and breadcrumbs from a recent baguette.

Accidental Locavore Duck ConfitFirst sign of trouble – ignoring the warning signs in my head that the beans should have been soaked overnight before going in the pot. After the first day of cooking (and it was more than the 5-7 hours given) the beans were rock hard and inedible. The pot went on the back porch to cool down, we went out to eat. Long story short, I cooked everything for about three days, before the beans were tender enough to eat. By that time, we were both well over our cassoulet cravings, so we foisted it off as dinner on an unknowing, but very polite friend (sorry Laura!). It was essentially mush, and what might have been distinct flavors on day one or two, were just different textures.

So, except for the buttermilk biscuits I use for making strawberry shortcakes, I’m through with Bittman! But not cassoulet – I had a great one in Nice!

 

 

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Accidental Locavore Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic French dish of either duck or goose confit, sausages, and beans. It’s a great example of a simple dish, riffs on pork and beans taken to another level. The Accidental Locavore recently got an offer from D’Artagnan for 20% off their cassoulet kit. Since my parents were supposed to be coming for the weekend, it looked like a good weekend cooking project, not to mention a terrific January dinner, so why not? In between snow storms, a huge, really huge, box arrived from D’Artagnan. In it, beautifully packaged, was everything you need to put together a cassoulet dinner. Part of what makes making cassoulet difficult (in this country anyway), is assembling all the ingredients, but now that was all done, and all that was needed was a hungry audience. A very hungry audience. For in my ordering excitement, I never read the fine print, and had no idea that this cassoulet kit, actually fed twelve people!

Unfortunately, my parents have been snowed in in Boston for the past, let’s say, month, so I decided to round up a bunch of the best eaters I know and have a cassoulet party here in the city. D’Artagnan really makes it easy, the only thing I needed to buy was a carrot. You soak the beans the night before, cook them for an hour with a couple of onions, the aforementioned carrot, and a bouquet garni, and then move into constructing the cassoulet. A layer of beans goes in the bottom of a very large casserole, followed by the duck confit, some sliced garlic sausage, pork ventreche (fatback French style), and some duck sausage. Top with the rest of the beans, and pour over a mix of duck demi-glace diluted in water, cover and cook for about 2 hours in a low oven. You can’t imagine how good it smelled.

So my hungry friends schlepped through the remnants of yet another snow storm, and devoured the cassoulet, the braised leeks, a lovely spinach salad my friend Holly brought, and many bottles of wine. For desert Laura made a warm apple tart, and Robin brought an amazing chocolate cake. It was a fun dinner, a delicious meal, and the perfect thing for a snowy January night. I’d order another one from D’Artagnan in a heartbeat, it’s a great way to entertain.

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Accidental Locavore LeeksThis week’s cook-along recipe is for a easy vegetable side dish, braised leeks. Working from the biggest cookbooks the Accidental Locavore owns, this week’s cook-along recipe for braised leeks comes from an old favorite, Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. I was looking for an interesting side dish recipe to go with cassoulet, and thought braising greens, something like leeks or endives would be a nice homey vegetable that would work with the richness of the cassoulet. You can use the technique on lots of different vegetables, some classics include celery, and endives. For 6 servings. Adapted from The Way to Cook.

  • 6 large or 12 small leeks (1-2 per person)
  • Water, chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 or more tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an oven proof baking dish big enough tho hold the leeks. Prepare the leeks for cooking: trim the root ends of the leeks being careful to keep the leaves intact. Cut the tops of the leeks, leaving them about 6-7″ long. Cut in half lengthwise, fan the leaves out and wash thoroughly under cold running water. My leeks were amazingly dirty, so really take care washing them. Arrange the leeks cut side down in the buttered baking dish. Add the water or broth to come halfway up the side of the leeks, salt lightly, and dot with about a tablespoon of butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes until tender. When they are done, you can reduce the braising liquid, enrich it with a little butter at the end, and pour over the leeks, or just serve them straight from the baking dish. Enjoy!

My rating: 3 stars. Mostly because while working on the cassoulet, I let the leeks hang out a little long on their own. Could have reduced the braising liquid, but didn’t have the time. They were fine and with a little closer attention from the cook, would have been really good. You can also let them cook down and serve with a little vinaigrette, or reduce the cooking liquid, and top with some breadcrumbs toasted with butter, or a little Parmesan cheese.

For the rest of my diners, what did you think?

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