A special guest post today from our college friend Jen. She shares a recipe for cassoulet that works for the busy family. Something everyone might learn a few things from.
I first met Margot and later Jason back in the days of dinning halls, take-out food, and cheap drinks. Ahh college! My how our food and beverage worlds have changed! I was very honored when recently these same dear friends asked me to guest post on a topic I know very well, food and the busy mom.
First off I feel I should explain my culinary point of view, the one of the busy mom. Sorry if that sounds too "The Next Food Network Star" (I love that show btw! Did you guys see the finale?!). Anyway, I grew up having nightly family dinners with a mom who cooks and bakes like nobody's business. My family owns restaurants and I have done every job imaginable from the front of the house to the back. I read cookbooks like some people read the latest Oprah Book Club selection. And as a child I was the pickiest of eaters. Since becoming a mom to my twins over four years ago I think I've lost count as to how many times I've apologized to my parents for my childhood dinnertime theatrics! All of this has played some part in influencing my culinary point of view.
As a parent I am a firm believer that my husband (who by the way cooks too!)and I are not short order cooks. We make one meal and the kids eat what we prepare. Sure we have nights where there are protests, it's not perfect. We only ask that they try one bite of each item on their plate. And there have been nights when someone has refused dinner and gone to bed hungry. And you know what? It wasn't the end of the world.
Okay now on to the food! The dish that I have selected to share with all of you for a weeknight family dinner is quintessentially French, a cassoulet. I know you just read the word FRENCH and you are now rolling your eyes like how easy is this going to be? Won't it have to cook for hours? Hold on before you wave your white dish towel and surrender to the drive-thru window for another family meal... keep reading. Over the years I have adapted a version of this traditional slow cooking bean stew from a recipe in Rachael Ray's very first cookbook, 30 Minute Meals. Cassoulet is common in the south of France and incorporates meat, white beans, herbs and other vegetables.
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 sweet sausages
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 celery stalk peeled and diced
1 small onion peeled and diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup of dry white wine (ask Jason for recommendations here)
1 can (15 oz.) cannelini beans, rinsed
7 sprigs of fresh thyme - strip the leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) of chicken broth
Dice chicken into bite size pieces. Heat a deep pot or skillet on medium high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the whole sausages and diced chicken to your pot. Brown for 5 minutes then remove chicken and sausages from the pan. Add a second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Now add to the pan carrots, celery, and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and then add the wine to the pan. Scrap up all the good "bits" on the bottom of the pan. Once you have done this now you can add the beans, thyme, bay leaf, salt & pepper, diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Slice the sausages into bite sized pieces and return them to the pot along with the chicken to finish cooking. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
1 French baguette
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice 1 whole baguette and place the rounds on a cookie sheet. Bake until toasted about 7 minutes. Combine olive oil and 2 smashed garlic cloves and heat them either in the microwave from 45 seconds or on the stovetop for a minute. Then baste both sides of the bread rounds with the garlic infused oil. Serve the bread with the cassoulet.
Mom’s tips: I like to rinse my canned beans before I add them to the pot. I also prefer to use canned tomatoes with no added salt so I can control the salt in my dishes. I love Kitchen Basics stocks, flavorful and not filled with MSG and other things that I can't pronounce or spell. The leftovers for this dish are amazing since everything has had a chance to sit together for a spell. We love to place a few of the garlic croutons in a bowl and then heap the cassoulet over them. The juices from the cassoulet seep into the bread and well it's really delicious!
My husband and I spent our honeymoon traveling the French countryside and now as busy parents we rarely get out for a date night. With this recipe I can easily recreate a delicious French meal that can take me back to that moment in time before kids. Ahh! Seriously people a classic French dish on the table in 30 minutes! Who needs a bag of food from the drive-thru window now?