As I sit here at my desk on the last day of 2018, the snow is gently falling and Van Morrison is singing to me. It’s a lovely way to reflect on how truly lucky I am. 2018 was a year filled with adventure, travel, the love of family and friends, new experiences, the beauty of nature and a beautiful kitchen to create new recipes in. It was a great year and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds in store for me. I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.
As every New Years comes around, I like to incorporate a little “good luck” into the food that I make. This year I decided to make an Easy French cassoulet. A cassoulet is a traditional stewed dish from the south of France that incorporates a variety of meats and beans. I made my dish a little more “American” friendly by omitting duck fat (cause it’s expensive and hard to find) and substituted bacon fat instead. The bacon fat gives this stew an amazingly rich flavor that is totally decadent and comforting.
As an added bonus, this cassoulet packed with all kinds of good luck. The addition of the “greens” isn’t traditional but totally acceptable as they are an added healthy bonus to the stew.
I incorporated the “good luck” foods below to make a giant pot of “French Baked Beans”. If you need more ideas for good luck food for the New Year, click here.
- Pork- think, “high on the hog”. It symbolizes wealth and prosperity. It also symbolizes progress.
- Greens- well, that kinda obvious. Green means money and we can all use a little more of that.
- Beans- symbolize coins or money.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients in this cassoulet. It’s well worth the effort to brown off all the meats. Once done though, it’s cooked in one pot. I used dried beans for this recipe. I believe that the beans have a better flavor when cooked from their dried stage.
One thing that is great about a cassoulet is that if it sits in the refrigerator overnight, the beans absorb more of the liquid and take on a delightfully porky flavor. I love meals that taste great on day 2!
This recipe makes a ton and can be frozen for later. A quick and delicious dinner on a cold winter’s night. I am looking forward to eating it again later this month!
Happy New Year! Enjoy!!!
Easy French Cassoulet
For the Beans
- 1 pound navy beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the "Meat" of the Stew
- 6 strips thick cut back, sliced into 2 inch pieces
- 1 pound kielbasa sausage, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 1/2 pounds cubed pork sirloin roast
- 2 pounds chicken thighs
- 2 cups diced onions
- 1 tablesoon minced garlic
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups chopped kale (1 small bunch)
For the Bread Crumb Topping
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the Beans
- Place the beans, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves in a large stockpot. Cover the bean mixture with about 3 inches of water. Bring the beans to a boil and boil for 4 minutes (high altitude) 2 minutes at a lower elevation. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 1 hour and add the salt. Cook for another 15 to 30 minutes until the beans are tender.
- Drain the beans and remove the bay leaves and the rosemary stem. Leave the garlic in the beans. Set aside.
To Make the Breadcrumbs
- Place about 1/4 of a fresh baguette into a food processor. (Add more if needed) Pulse until a semi-chunky mixture develops. Pour in the butter and parsley and pulse to it's combined. Set aside.
For the "Meat" of the stew
- In a large stock pot cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and reserve the remaining.
- Brown the pork in the bacon fat on medium-low heat. Do this in small batches until all it's all browned. Season each batch with a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.
- Add the kielbasa and brown. Once browned add to the bowl with the pork.
- Season the chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper on each piece. Add a little more bacon fat to the pan and brown the chicken. This will take 5-8 for the first side. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in the bowl with the other meats.
- If needed, add a little more bacon fat to the pan and saute the onions until translucent. Add the carrots and garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the brown bits.
- Stir in the bay leaves, herbs de Provence, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and, pepper. Add the meats back to the pan along with the cooked bacon. Stir in the cooked beans and cover with the chicken stock.
- Cover the stock pot with the lid and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the chopped kale. Top the stew with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Increase the temperature to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned. Remove from oven and serve in large bowls with fresh baguettes.