Italian sausage

I love to have homemade Italian sausage in the freezer. We add it to spaghetti, meatballs, meatloaf, and many other things. If you have a Kitchenaid mixer, the meat grinder attachment works great for this type of thing. Additionally, the sausage doesn’t have to be stuffed into the casings, you can also just make ‘bulk’ sausage for use in other recipes. I would suggest that you zip lock them in 1 lb increments to be compatible with other recipes that call for Italian sausage.


Cassoulet

Cassoulet

Cassoulet, that famous dish from the south of France. Not from the more familiar Provence, Marseille, Nimes part of the country, but more toward the Western portions of Southern France such as Carcassonne, Toulouse, and Narbonne. I am referring to the Languedoc area of France where once lived a peaceful religious order named the Cathars. The Cathars were all killed and they were ran out of their castles during the crusades of the 1200’s. All that remains are mountain top ruins, a few sad stories, and a delicious beany casserole dish.

Nobody knows when or where the Cassoulet tradition began, but the national bean dish of France is not considered fancy or “Haute” cuisine. No… it most certainly has more humble beginnings. Certainly, it existed prior to refrigeration, otherwise, I would have to say that it was born of bits of this and that which were becoming questionable in the ol’ ice box.

Of course, i wouldn’t bother with the long intro if it weren’t a dish worthy of a long and delicious pedigree. Jill and I were fortunate enough to travel to France and visit Carcassonne several years ago. At the time, I had heard of Cassoulet, but had never tried it. I found that in Carcassonne, it was available on every street corner and mobile stand as if it were fried twinkies at the state fair. Since I wanted to be sure to have the real thing, I asked around until someone recommended a respectable establishment with a good reputation for local, Carcassonne Cassoulet. I can’t recall the name of the small bistro we visited that evening, but the Cassoulet lived up to the hype.

It was rich, creamy, and extremely savory. Truly a dish deserving of it’s legendary status.

If you ever page through the French standard of cook books, “LaRousse Gastronomique”, you’ll learn that there are basically three types of regional Cassoulets in Southwest France, each is a slight variation on the other, but they all share some basic ingredients. There is tradition involved in making cassoulet as well. For example, it is well documented that you crack the cassoulet crust of a Carcassonne Cassoulet a specific number of times during the cooking of the Cassoulet and there are various other ‘cracking’ intervals dependent upon the region upon which the Cassoulet is being cooked.

Since I am hereby creating a new regional Cassoulet here in El Dorado County, I decree that while cooking a Cassoulet anywhere in El Dorado County, you shall crack the crust exactly 3 times during the cooking process if you wish to obtain optimal results (actually, just one time will do).

If you are to embark on this Cassoulet adventure, you should be in good health and free from any ailments which may prevent you from persevering through the lengthy process inherent in Cassoulet cookery. Cassoulet is typically at least a 3 day project. However, being that we live in America where fast food rules and convenience prevails, I have come up with a recipe which requires a mere two days to complete but still delivers authentic results.

Traditionally, Cassoulet is made in a cassole dish. The cassole dish is usually made of stoneware and it has a conical shape tapering from small at the bottom to large at the top, this way you have more surface area for the coveted crust on top of the cassoulet. A nice dutch oven will work well for our purposes.