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Bean Bowl: France vs. Wisconsin

January 21, 1998|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here's a recipe for a cassoulet that's so big we had to bake it in a turkey roaster because no ordinary casserole could handle it.

It's an incredible dish, rich with duck meat, pancetta, bacon and sausage and topped with a buttery, herb-flavored crust. Times tasters judged it one of the best ever, so it's sure to be a hit on Super Bowl Sunday. Add salads, bread and drinks and your menu planning is done.

The recipe comes from David Checchini, chef at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. We've simplified it slightly by suggesting chicken stock as an alternative to the veal stock that Checchini uses. Most of the ingredients are available in well-stocked supermarkets, but we went to a Chinese market for duck legs.

The cassoulet has to be started the day before. It might be a good idea to make the whole dish in advance and bake or reheat it the day of the game. While it bakes, you can assemble the side dishes and set out chips and other snacks to keep the football fans happy until mealtime.

If you want something really easy, almost as big as the cassoulet and very tasty, make a double batch of Wisconsin Oven-Baked Beans. Donna Deane, Times Test Kitchen director, drew this recipe from her family files. It's based on canned beans. And it includes great bean seasonings that you're likely to have on hand--brown sugar, bacon, horseradish and mustard.

Either way, you're guaranteed a Super Bowl winner.

THE WINE CASK'S CASSOULET (PLAN AHEAD)

3 pounds dry navy beans

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 pound smoked bacon, diced

1 cup diced pancetta

3 white onions, minced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons finely diced shallots

1 cup diced celery

2 carrots, diced

4 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 pound Italian sausage or other pork sausage, cooked and diced

3 pounds duck legs, browned and drained

16 cups veal stock or chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup fresh thyme, whole leaves

1/2 cup minced parsley

2 bay leaves

1/2 loaf day-old Italian or French bread, cut into pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme), chopped

Soak beans overnight in water to cover generously. Strain.

Cook beans in large pot with plenty of fresh water until al dente, 35 to 40 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or soup pot. Add bacon, pancetta, onions, garlic, shallots, celery, carrots and tomatoes and saute until vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. Add sausage and duck legs and stir to mix. Add stock and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.

Place half of beans in 8-quart roasting pan. With slotted spoon, distribute meat-and-vegetable mixture evenly over beans. Reserve stock and skim fat from surface. Cover meats and vegetables with remaining beans. Add just enough stock to barely cover beans. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 2 hours.

Place bread in food processor and process to fine meal. Add butter and mixed herbs. Process to mix. Uncover cassoulet and sprinkle evenly with prepared crumbs. Bake uncovered until well-browned and bubbling, 1 1/2 hours longer. (Check after 1 hour of cooking and add more stock if needed.)

16 servings. Each serving:

678 calories; 1,530 mg sodium; 54 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 5.26 grams fiber.

WISCONSIN OVEN-BAKED BEANS

1 (15-ounce) can butter beans with liquid

1 (15-ounce) can great northern beans with liquid

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

3/4 pound thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup diced onions

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Combined butter beans, great northern beans and kidney beans in 3-quart baking dish. Stir in sliced bacon, onions, brown sugar, mustard and horseradish.

Cover and bake at 325 degrees 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Uncover during last hour of baking to brown top. Add water to beans during cooking if necessary.

8 servings. Each serving:

461 calories; 670 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 17 grams protein; 4.88 grams fiber.

*

Tea towel in cassoulet photo from Bristol Kitchens, South Pasadena.

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