Cassoulet – A Labor of Love

CassouletCassoulet is one of my favorite wintertime French dishes.  On the surface it doesn’t seem like anything too special, basically a white bean stew with some meat in it, slow cooked into a rich, hot, warm your bones dish.  I don’t think you simply “cook” or “make” cassoulet, it’s something you actually “build.”  In her French cooking opus, Julia Child offers a “Note on the Order of Battle.”  I don’t think assembling cassoulet is quite a battle but you definitely need a plan because the dish is not one of your quick- throw-together weeknight dinners.  In fact almost everyone recommends days to assemble it.  They’re not me though!  (more…)


Braised White Beans and Spicy Sausage

I came up with the idea for this last week when I made some white beans with red peppers as a side dish.  It was pretty good but I thought some Mexican chorizo mixed in would make it even better (probably still a good idea to try).  As you can see I went with Italian sausage instead and added some sauce.  I wanted bigger pieces to go with the beans and also didn’t think chorizo would braise very well.  We’re going out to dinner tomorrow night (somebody’s birthday tomorrow, not mine!) so made something easy and not too heavy for tonight.  And come on, who doesn’t like a fancy “pork and beans” dinner? (more…)

Kitchen essentials – Demi-glace

Still back home visiting but I crafted this entry before leaving when I realized the only “essential” I’ve mentioned is truffle salt.  If you’ve read any of Anthony Bourdain’s books you know he is a big proponent of demi-glace.  Traditionally it’s made with veal stock and sauce espagnole and reduced.  Making some can be a long process for the home cook.  Thankfully there are people who make it and sell it.  10 years ago you probably wouldn’t have been able to find it in stores.  I used to order it online and hoard small tubs in my freezer, saving it for special occasions.  These days it’s not uncommon to find demi-glace in the grocery store and it’s not terribly expensive either.  Around $5 depending on your market.  Here in Chicago I’ve found it at Treasure Island (they also have my other favorite ingredient, truffle salt).