Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weekday Cassoulet

I have had this recipe saved on my MacGourmet for a long time now. In watching as many hours of food shows as I do, I have seen many variations of cassoulet made. It is basically a peasant dish originating in France consisting of white beans flavored with some cuts of meat and cooked long and slow in the oven. Julia Child's recipe indicates that it can be made in one day, but it is better to spread it out over two to three days.

This recipe aired on Melissa D'Arabian's show on May 5, 2010 and it has been in my MacGourmet program ever since. I finally made it tonight and Gerry and I are amazed at how good it was. It has the same homey, earthy feel as a Coq au Vin, but I think this is actually better. Melissa's version can be made in just under 2 hours and tasted like it cooked for hours. I served this simply with some French bread that I had stuck in the freezer last time I baked French bread.

I rounded out the French Bistro meal with Blueberry Lemon Crepes with Custard Sauce which were also featured on the same show and these were very good (not spectacular, but very good).

I enjoyed this cassoulet so much that I am considering changing my birthday menu (a month away) from Beouf Bourguignon to this Cassoulet (this is seriously good stuff).

From Melissa D'Arabian's $10 Dollar Dinners - Weekday Cassoulet (Serves 4)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, cut in half through the bone (I actually had Gerry do this since I couldn't quite get all the way through the bone)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound slab bacon, sliced into large lardons
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups cooked Northern white beans
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tomato, sliced very thinly
Garlic Bread Crumbs, recipe follows
1 baguette, sliced for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse and dry the chicken well and season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven, over medium-low heat, add the bacon and slowly render the fat. Remove the bacon to a plate when crispy, leaving the fat in the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides and then remove to a plate. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce by half. Stir in the beans, bay leaf and thyme. Nestle the chicken thighs and bacon into the pot. Add the chicken stock, cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the lid and top the cassoulet with sliced tomatoes and the Garlic Bread Crumbs. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer. Serve the cassoulet with baguette slices.

Garlic Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 slices slightly stale or dried bread, pulsed into crumbs in food processor
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saute pan over low heat, add the oil and the garlic. Stir until the oil is fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss in the bread crumbs and cook until the bread crumbs start to turn golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.

Blueberry Lemon Crepes with Custard Sauce (Serves 4)


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
Pinch kosher salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted, divided

Blueberry Filling:

2/3 cup blueberry jam or preserves
1/2 lemon, juiced

Custard Sauce:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon confectioner's sugar, for garnish

To make the crepes: Whisk the flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg and 1 tablespoon of butter. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.

In a heavy small saute pan or crepe pan, lightly brush the pan with a layer of melted butter and heat over medium-high heat. Working quickly, pour in about 3 tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan to coat. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes and then flip with a thin metal spatula to finish cooking the other side, another minute. Repeat with remaining batter. Keep the crepes warm while preparing the rest of the dessert.

To make the Blueberry Filling: Heat the jam in a small pan over low heat or microwave until warm and syrupy. Whisk in the lemon juice and set aside.

To make the Custard Sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together until well blended. Whisk in the milk and cook over low heat until almost boiling, then remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla until well blended. Add a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk from the saucepan and whisk to temper the egg. Add resulting egg mixture to the rest of the warm milk in the pan, whisking to combine. Cook over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken (do not boil). Let the sauce cool slightly while assembling the crepes.

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