February 3, 2011

Kentucky Cassoulet

I am back!  And since I was absent yesterday, I have the best treat for you today.  It is a hearty and simple winter dinner perfect for the cold snap we are experiencing.  AND by making this recipe, you are taking part in a Kentucky institution!  The recipe is from the Farmington Cookbook, which at this point in time can only be found in used book stores (if you see it snatch it up) or on eBay (there are actually several copies!!!!!).  I have no idea the last time it was published, I just know I lucked out with a pass-me-down that is still in good condition.  I love good regional cookbooks.  I feel like it deserves it's own post....coming soon!  Anyways, I am way off topic.  Cassoulet is a traditionally french dish, so of course I love it, and my host-mom in Aix-en-Provence made some version with lentils, duck confit, sausage, and chicken drumettes...it was amazing.  And according to Julia Child, cassoulet can and should take days to cook with love and care put into each meat (there are normally quite a few), and thorough consideration put into the beans and their cooking methods.  I'm not kidding, her recipe is like three pages long.  Rubbish I say!  The Kentucky version takes much less time and captures the spirit of the dish and warms your stomach on a FREEZING winter night.

Kentucky Cassoulet
6 chicken thighs (or about 4 c. leftover meat)
1 lb. sausage (I used hot Italian)
2 cans cannelini beans
3 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Pinch of dried thyme
1/2 t. dried basil
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. hot chicken stock
2 t. beef concentrate
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 c. dried bread crumbs
1/4 c. olive oil

Cook the chicken and remove from the bone.  Break up the sausage in a large skillet and brown.  Remove from the skillet and leave abut 1 T. of fat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and then add in the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, basil, sugar and salt.  Cook until most of the moisture has cooked off and the mixture is almost dry.  In a separate bowl, combine the chicken stock, beef concentrate and red wine vingar and whisk until the concentrate has dissolved.  In a large buttered casserole, rinse the first can of beans and layer them on the bottom.  Then layer the sausage and chicken, then the tomatoes, and then the final can of beans.  Drizzle the chicken stock mixture over the cassoulet.  Cover the top with the bread crumbs and drizzle with the olive oil.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1.5 hrs.

OK the list of ingredients is longer than I remember it being when I made it, probably because I was using leftover chicken.  But don't let it deter you!  This meal is great, and can be made ahead and baked right before serving.  It makes the kitchen smell sooooo good and wintery.  The first time I had this it was just the beans and tomato mixture as a side dish, also delicious.  When Stud said this meal was his new favorite, I decided he should make a top ten list since his has way more than ten.  This cassoulet is also phenomenal left over, it is usually a requirement for most meals I make....

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