Sunday, September 19, 2010

I think it's the French word for delicious

Before I saw the recipe for "Cassoulet Chowder" in my slow cooker cookbook a couple of weeks ago, the only other time I had heard the word "cassoulet" was when it was one of the dishes that Queen Latifah ordered off of Chef Didier's special tasting menu ("No substitutions!") in the movie "Last Holiday". It's the first dinner at the fancy hotel, where she eats all alone in the red "Helloooooooo sister!" dress with the pashmina, and when the chef is in the kitchen expediting her meal he yells, "Un cassoulet!" and then decides to make it himself.

Of course, this scene offers no indication of what un cassoulet actually is. I never bothered to look it up, but now that I've eaten my slow cooker cassoulet chowder, I'm pretty sure that "cassoulet" means "Oh, God, I want to pour the entire slow cooker into my mouth at the same time". Wikipedia suggests that cassoulet is "a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole", which may also be correct.

The cassoulet recipe intrigued me because it called for three different kinds of meat, and after last weekend's all vegetable soup I felt like going in the opposite direction. Two of the meats, chicken and ham, were pretty easy to handle, because you can buy them pre-cooked and just dice them up. The pack of brown and serve sausages, on the other hand, seemed a little more daunting.

brown and serve

I've never made breakfast sausage. I would normally look at that pack and think, "How hard can it be?", but every time I think that something explodes or burns or turns to sludge in my kitchen, so now I approach all new foods with some degree of caution. The instructions said to place them in a skillet and brown them over medium heat, turning often with tongs. I have tongs, a skillet, and a stove, so I figured I could handle this:

sausage, pan, tongs

The instruction to put them in the skillet first implied that I should start the cold meat in a cold pan, like bacon, so I arranged the sausage, turned on the stove, and turned my attention to the pinto beans.

The recipe said to use dried pinto beans and soak them overnight, but that seemed like a hell of a lot of extra work, and I was already browning sausage and dicing meat and slicing carrots and stuff, so I looked at the bag of dried beans and thought, "How many beans do you think are in there?" Then I bought two cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained them:

pinto beans

and dumped them in the slow cooker. I always rinse canned beans before I use them because they always seem to come packed in some kind of slime. I don't know what it is and I don't want to.

After the beans, I checked on the sausage, which was more gray than brown:

browning sausage

It didn't look anything like the picture, so I left it to brown some more. In the meantime, I peeled and sliced one and a half cups of carrots, which turned out to be about three large carrots. After I threw those on top of the beans, I measured out the tomato sauce, and poured that into the food processor. The totmato sauce was going to be my accomplice in destroying the onion:

puree the onion

I was going to just throw the onion in there by itself, but every time I do that a problem arises: the blades of the processor are not flush to the bottom of the bowl. They can't be, or else nothing would get chopped. Unfortunately, that means that slippery disgusting chunks of onions can slide under the blades and not be totally pureed into nothingness the way that I would like for them to be. If, on the other hand, the onion pieces were suspended in a viscous liquid, the circulation of the liquid around the spinning blades would keep the onion from escaping pulverization and there would be no chance at all of me biting into a stray piece.

Shut up. This is totally normal.

Anyway, once the onion and tomato sauce were taken care of, I poured them on top of the carrots and beans, added the garlic powder, and discovered that I had no bay leaves even though I thought I did. I threw in a pinch of dried basil instead, and turned my attention back to the sausage:

browned sausage

It looked done, so I put it on paper towels to drain, and continued slicing things. The ham and chicken were diced and added:

ham and chicken

and then the sausage:

added sausage

After that I poured in some red wine (I had some merlot around that needed using up) and four cups of water, set it on low, and went to football.

Florida showed up to kick our asses and to taunt our fans with their taunty cheerleaders and taunty Gator mascots:

florida mascots

but I have a newsflash for Florida: We ate your taunty mascot at lunch on Friday.

gator cake

He was four feet long, and made of cake, and he was delicious.

And speaking of delicious, I found a slow cooker full of delicious cassoulet chowder waiting for me when I got home:

cassoulet chowder

You should make some. You'll need:

2 cans of pinto beans
4 cups of water
12 oz package of brown and serve breakfast sausage, cooked, drained, and sliced
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
2 cups cooked ham, cubed
1 and 1/2 cups of sliced raw carrots
8 oz of tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped (or processed into oblivion)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf or some dried basil
3/4 cup red wine

Dump it all in the slow cooker on low for 8 to 10 hours. If you want it to thicken up a little, take the lid off and cook it on high for another half hour before you eat any, so that some of the water boils off. Stir it before you eat it, because the beans settle toward the bottom.

It's delicious.


Sandy said...

That seems like a lot of sausage. And chicken and ham and carrots. How many servings does it make?

Joel said...

A lot. It filled the slow cooker up to the top.

Seth said...

Aw, baby's first cassoulet! It is absolutely mandatory to order cassoulet every time I find myself in a French bistro. I love your newbie culinary adventures!

Skald said...

You're right Joel, it is delicious. I just made it tonight, everyone enjoyed it very much. I wanted it a bit thicker so I added about 1/4 cup of corn starch to it about twenty minutes before serving.

Sooo much meat though, had a salad an steamed some asparagus to off set it.