Cassoulet casserole!

This week’s recipe is another that has been on my list for years. I almost made it during my casserole year, but ended up *shrug emoji.*

This year, however, after reading that cassoulet is the ultimate Dutch oven dish, I figured I had to try it, and try it early this year.

Cassoulet ingredients.
Cassoulet ingredients.

Another hold up in my mission was, well, the ingredients in cassoulet. Not only are many of them hard to find, and therefore, not all that cheap, those ingredients are also extremely fatty meats that are not all that appetizing.

To make up for this fact, I mercifully found a vegetarian cassoulet. Only that seemed pretty boring.

So, I did what anybody — well, one other notable foodie at least — would do, I reverse engineered the vegetarian cassoulet to add the amounts and types of meats I wanted. I settled on pancetta and andouille sausage.

For the vegetarians, these can easily be skipped and my assumption that it would be boring was wrong. For the meat eaters, feel free to add duck fat, duck legs, salt pork, pork shoulder, chicken thighs, or any of the variety of meats that appear in the multitude of recipes for this French classic.

I did what tasted best to me, and dear reader, it was amazing.

I won’t lie, it’s time consuming, and the recipe can be tweaked in hundreds of ways to suit one’s tastes, but I can definitely see why cassoulet has the reputation it does, especially in a Dutch oven.

This cassoulet only gets better with the addition of garlicky bread crumbs (not pictured).

Here’s what I did, adapting the Epicurious vegetarian recipe:

Ingredients

For the cassoulet

  • 8 oz. pancetta
  • 3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped (I used more)
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ t. ground cloves
  • 12 to 16 oz. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 16 oz. dried cannellini or great northern beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 quart broth, vegetable or chicken

For topping

  • 4 c. fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (about 1 baguette) (I actually did this and it was much better, and the bread can be days old as well; just tear bread into chunks and blend well for about a minute)
  • ⅓ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped garlic (I didn’t measure)
  • ¼ c. chopped parsley (I used about half a bunch)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

For the cassoulet

Fry up the pancetta in a large Dutch oven. Once mostly cooked, add in the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs and spices, and cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened and lightly golden.

Add the beans, and broth, and bring to a boil. Cook partially covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sausage after about 30 minutes, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until beans are fully cooked through.

For the topping

Meanwhile, while the cassoulet cooks, make the garlicky bread crumbs. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, until the crumbs are coated. Spread on a sheet pan and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the mixture is crisp and golden. Cool the crumbs in the pan, and then return the bread crumb mixture to the medium bowl and stir in the parsley.

To finish

Mash some of the beans in the pot with a potato masher to thicken the broth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Just before serving, sprinkle the cassoulet with the bread crumbs, and enjoy!

That’s a spicy meatball!

My family knows me well as among Christmas gifts were cooking equipment and utensils. My brother gifted me brand new sheet pans, for which he felt bad that it came at the end of my sheet pan year.

However, I plan to keep making sheet pan recipes even if I’m not blogging about them. And anyway, it turns out I can keep blogging about them as this week’s recipe utilizes both a sheet pan and a Dutch oven and both are vital to the meal coming together.

I have had this curried meatball recipe from Epicurious on my to-make list for a couple years but just hadn’t gotten around to it. As I was looking for recipes for this year, I was delighted to note that I finally had an excuse to get around to it.

Curried meatballs ingredients.

And now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. It was a bit of a pain in the ass with all the steps, but honestly, worth it. The spicy meatballs complement the smoky curried sauce and make for a wonderful mix of flavors.

It also makes quite a bit so you can impress friends by sharing or sacrifice one night for several days of yummy leftovers.

That’s so spicy and saucy, and noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For meatballs

  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 jalapenos, halved and seeds removed if desired
  • 6 garlic cloves (I used more)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped (I used a heaping T from a jar of minced ginger)
  • 1 T. lime juice (we were out of lemon)
  • 1 T. garam masala
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • ½ t. ground cumin
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. plain yogurt
  • 2 t. salt

For sauce

  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ½-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped (I used 1 ½ heaping T from my jar of ginger)
  • 3 dried chiles de arbol
  • 3 t. curry powder
  • 4 t. ground cumin
  • 4 t. ground turmeric
  • 3 t. ground coriander
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14.5 oz. can) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • ½ t. Cayenne pepper
  • Cilantro for serving (optional) (I forgot it, sadly)
  • ¼ c. yogurt (optional) (I added just to get rid of the remaining amount in my small container)

Directions

For meatballs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray rimmed sheet pan with oil, and set aside.

Puree the scallions, jalapenos, garlic, ginger, juice, and spices in a blender until smooth. Blend egg in a large bowl, and add the puree mix. Add the yogurt, beef, and salt. Mix with your hands until well blended. Roll into 24 balls, of about golf ball size, and place them on the oiled sheet pan about 1 inch apart. Spray with a little more oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through.

For the sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are starting to brown. Stir in the chiles, spices (except cayenne), and continue to cook for about another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and 2 c. water, and return to a boil. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly, and then transfer the sauce to a blender, blending until smooth. Transfer the sauce mixture back into the pot. Stir in the remaining yogurt, lime juice, and cayenne, and taste, adding more seasoning if needed.

To finish

Add the meatballs into the sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cook the mixture until the meatballs are heated through, and flavors meld a little, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with rice and cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!

Smokin’ soup to start off the new year

My sweetie and I had a tradition of smoking meats at Thanksgiving and Christmas until our smoker got stolen a couple years ago. Mercifully, we were able to get another one this year and pick up right where we left off.

The best part for me is, of course, the food. But a nice secondary benefit is I have one less thing taking up space and time in my kitchen. My sweetie handles the meat. I handle the sides and dessert.

I won’t bore you dear readers with all that we made at the two holidays even though I’m still drooling over them. But after Thanksgiving, I told my sweetie we were doing an extra bird at Christmas because I had plans for using it to kick off the new year right.

And ringing in my new If It Fits I Cooks project for 2019: the Dutch oven.

The wild rice and smoked chicken soup is an Amy Thielen recipe, though I varied it slightly because I already had a favorite creamy wild rice and chicken soup.

Chicken and wild rice soup ingredients.

My most important contribution is the addition of slivered almonds for added texture that blends with the wild rice well. Oh, and I used leftover (frozen) carcasses from the Thanksgiving chicken to make a smoky broth that added a little something.

Like most soups, this is difficult to mess up but it is time consuming. Wild rice always takes forever. Chopping veggies — something I weirdly enjoy but many don’t — is also a chore. And then of course simmering long enough for all the flavors to meld.

But it’s January and there’s not much else to do. This is the part where I’d usually say there’s the added benefit of keeping the stove going and warming up, but if you live in central Iowa, that has uh not been much of an issue so far this winter.

Happy New Year lovely readers and I hope you’ll follow me on this foodie adventure again in 2019!

Nom Nom Noms.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 c. chopped smoked chicken (I didn’t measure but it was roughly the breast meat)
  • ¾ c. natural wild rice (uncooked)
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ c. white wine (preferably Chardonnay)
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 8 c. chicken stock (homemade is best!)
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • ½ to 1 c. slivered almonds, to taste
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Add the rice (cleaned, if necessary) to 1 ½ c. water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 25 to 45 minutes. (The wide time range is because mine never seems done at 25 minutes, but it’s good practice to start checking around then and taste testing — it goes in at the end of the soup-making so it needs to be done by the time it’s added.) Strain off any excess liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, and a little salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, adding the garlic near the end of the saute time. Add the flour slowly and stir until combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil (this happens quick in a Dutch oven).

Add the stock, the cream, and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, and cook at a bare simmer for 30 minutes uncovered to meld the flavors together. Add the cooked wild rice and almonds and simmer the soup for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, serve, and enjoy!