Since I've started this blog I've become more and more interested in trying different types of food at restaurants and attempting different meals in our home. I was raised with the idea that special foods belong in a restaurant, but really, special meals and special foods can be eaten anywhere and sometimes it's best when those special meals come straight from your kitchen.
With that idea in mind I'm starting the new year off with a few resolutions that I'll post soon. One of those resolutions is to eat more ethnic or international meals as often as possible. So many of what we eat in the U.S. and what I consider traditional American food have roots in other countries and cultures. I want to explore those roots through food. Luckily I've got a great base to start from, because Ashlee has been travelling around the world in 2008, and Joelen explores different ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago each month. They're my inspiration for this particular resolution.
As a small sampler for the coming year, I thought I'd try a French cassoulet for dinner tonight. This is not at all authentic and is very quick cooking when compared to the traditional cassoulet. Traditional cassoulets are rooted in the French countryside where this slow-cooked bean stew was both hearty and economical for peasant farmers. It comes from the southwest region of Toulouse, though the recipe and ingredients vary by region. White beans, pork sausage, goose, duck, pork skins, and duck confit are common traditional fillers. Depending on the region, a cassoulet can resemble a casserole or stew
French Country Cassoulet
1 pound smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 small onions, sliced into rings
1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; transfer to an ungreased 3-qt. baking dish. Cover and bake at 375° for 60-70 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
- This is made with semi-traditional ingredients and is cooked in an hour, whereas a traditional cassoulet takes many hours to prepare.
- This is also lacking the traditional crust that is found on many traditional cassoulets.
- I used a sweet Italian sausage. My Polish husband doesn't like Polish sausage, so to please him and be able to try something new, I went with sweet over spicy.
- This is very hearty and very filling. I can't wait to try another version in January or February when the weather gets nasty.
- It's not necessary to add salt and pepper unless you really miss the taste. With the salt and acidity of the tomato sauce and salt inside the sausage, you really shouldn't miss it.
- This will taste so much better if you rinse and soak the beans for 4-5 hours. You might even be able to cut down some on the cooking time.