Saturday, July 30, 2016

Baked Bean Casserole in the French Style (Cassoulet)

I recently entered a recipe contest sponsored by Mimi's Cafe. Mimi's is a national chain, with a restaurant in Fort Myers. John and I went there and liked it a lot. Mimi's serves American "cafe" dishes with a French twist in a cozy, French-style atmosphere. I didn't win the contest but I think the recipe is terrific and decided to share it here.

The cassoulet cooks in one pot.
When I thought about the theme of this contest, I immediately envisioned comfort food that would appeal to both American and French culture and I quickly settled on a baked bean dish. In France, that would be the cassoulet, a hearty dish of duck and pork and beans; in America, the dish would feature a more tomato-based dish with some type of pork as the main meat. I combined the essence of both to make my own American version of cassoulet with chicken as the main meat accented with fresh Polish pork sausage and bits of ham. Since this was to be an American dish with a French accent, I cooked the beans with a more traditional tomato-based sauce.

This will make a great evening supper as soon as the weather begins to cool.
The hardest part of making this dish was the ten ingredient limitation. I had to make some hard decisions about what to eliminate. I made the assumption that salt and pepper were ingredients, so I had to come up with alternatives. The sausage and ham provided the salt and Herbs de Provence gave the dish it’s unique flavor. Garlic was essential so the flavor came from the fresh Polish sausage and the fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic.

Note: This recipe won a contest sponsored by the National Pork Board in April, 2017 for a recipe that contained a pork product

Baked Beans in the French Style (Cassoulet)

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 links fresh Polish sausage (about 16 ounces), cut in half
1 medium onion diced
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence, divided
1 8 oz. package ham cubes
1 15.8 oz. cans Northern beans
1 14.5 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened white grape juice

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in 4 quart Dutch oven on top of stove. Sauté Polish sausage in oil until browned. Put into colander and drain. Sprinkle chicken thighs with 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence. Sauté thighs until lightly browned. Set aside on plate. Sauté onions until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Drain beans and add to Dutch oven. Stir in sausage, ham cubes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, white grape juice, and remaining herbs de Provence. Tuck chicken thighs into beans. Cover and bake for about 1 hour. Remove cover and bake for an additional half hour until top is crusted over.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

Serve with toasted slices of French baguettes with garlic butter.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 90 minutes
Rest time:  15 minutes