by Christine | Cooking, Observations
I was discussing, on Facebook this past week, the fact that I couldn’t find my favorite cassoulet recipe. My husband, bless him, dug through my many cookbooks and a three-inch, 3-ring binder of recipes, and found it for me. As several people wanted a copy of the recipe, I decided to put it here. Enjoy!
Christine’s Cassoulet – Made on November 4, 2017
This recipe is an amalgamation of what I remember from the Food & Wine version, and from a version that I found on the Internet in September 2004, on a website that no longer exists (yes, we checked). My husband found the printed version after I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t find my original F&W recipe. However, I love this one, as it sticks close to the F&W recipe. I’ve made several changes, as noted.
Time: 30-45 minutes preparation time. At least 8 hours in a crock pot on low.
Servings: At least 8, possibly 10. It’s a terrific wintertime meal with good friends. Just pair with a crusty French bread and a good red wine, and you’ll have a meal that will make memories.
½ pound small white navy beans (can substitute 2 cans white beans if you forget to buy the navy beans…which I have).
4+ cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 2+ cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into chunks or rounds, as you prefer
2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes, with their juices, or canned diced tomatoes
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 – 3 bay leaves
¼ pound salt pork in 1 piece
Note: If you can’t find salt pork, use ¼ pound whole slab bacon. If you can’t find that, use 5 or 6 bacon slices.
4 sausages I’ve used sweet Italian, or chicken apple sausages – you can also use spicy Italian if that’s your style
1 pound boneless pork – shoulder, boneless rib meat, pork chops (whatever you can find)
1 turkey leg (or 2 duck legs, if you can find them, or 4 chicken legs)
½ pound any type of good beef steak (or stew meat)
Note: The second or third time I made this, I forgot what type of meat I needed to put into the cassoulet, and bought a steak. After I got home I realized it didn’t call for steak – but I used it anyway, and I find it gives the whole dish an added boost of flavor.
Chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water, or a mixture, as needed…probably 4 – 6 cups
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Chop all veggies.
Brown all meats (including the salt pork) in a large skillet and transfer them to the crock pot.
Add crushed garlic, chopped onions, and chopped carrots into the crock pot. Add beans, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves.
Add stock mixture to cover by 2 inches, IF possible, as your large crock pot will be full. Cover, and cook on low for 8 hours (high for 5 hours). Don’t feel like you have to be home the entire time – go out! Have fun! Enjoy! When you get home, your kitchen will smell like heaven, I promise you!
<– I like adding 1/2 chicken bone broth, and 1/2 beef bone broth.
Note: Most cassoulet recipes that I’ve found have you leave all the meats whole when serving. When I first made this recipe in the late 1990s, I had two boys who were under the age of 10. Leaving anything whole, in a hot broth, was not practical. Therefore…
After 8 hours, when the meat is falling off the bone of the turkey leg, pull all the meats out of the crockpot and let cool enough to touch, while setting the crockpot to “Warm.” Once the meat is cool, shred the meat, extracting any fat and bones, and put all the meat back into the crockpot. Feel free to give the extra fats and skins to the dog. He’ll thank you for it.
Taste the broth – it should be rich and meaty, and need little extra seasoning. However, add the reserved minced garlic, and S&P to taste if needed (this one didn’t). Keep on warm until you’re ready to eat.
Note: The French typically put a breadcrumb crust on this. I never have, and I’ve never missed it. But if you wish, by all means, please do!
Note: This recipe can also be made in a Dutch oven; do everything in one pot, including sautéing the onions and carrots and garlic in the fat left behind by browning the meats. Cover with stock by 2 inches; cook on low for at least 5 hours. Check to see if the meat is falling off the bone before you take it off the heat.
by Christine | Cooking, Life
Sweet Holiday Treats
This time of year, I love making Candy Cane Popcorn. I found this recipe a couple of years ago and I could have sworn I put something up here about it, but I haven’t been able to find it, so…
If you google it, you’ll find a ton of recipes. But this is one that I like, with a few differences.
CANDY CANE POPCORN <– that’s from All Recipes. They have you keep the popcorn in a bowl after you’ve mixed the white chocolate and the peppermint in.
I like spreading it out on a cookie sheet…and I confess I add a little smattering of sea salt to it. Oh, and I cook it on the stove in oil…no air popper at my house, so there you go. And you know what? It’s still JUST as tasty.
Decadent Hot Chocolate
Another thing I love this time of year is Decadent Hot Chocolate. I HAVE written about that here before, but I truly believe it’s a concoction worth sharing. So here’s that other post.
I had the best hot chocolate ever in February 2005. Hubby and I were in Paris for our anniversary, and we stumbled on this patisserie on the Isle de St. Louis on a chilly morning.
The scent of chocolate permeated the air. We didn’t even think of resisting its call. So, as we sipped our chocolate (to DIE for), hubby prowled around and found the recipe, hand-written, on a card by some chocolates. So he copied it.
One memorable morning, when Paris was a distant memory, he made me this Decadent Hot Chocolate, and I was pleased to remember, yet again, what a lucky girl I was to have married him.
The recipe is below…but be careful. You can tie people to your side with this hot chocolate. On no account (if you’re single) should you give out the recipe…
1 cup high quality 60% cacao chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – but regular choc chips are fine) 4 cups milk, 3 Tlb powdered baking cocoa (Again, I use Ghirardelli), 3 Tlb white sugar, 1 cup heavy whipping cream.
Put chocolate in a pan, and add just enough milk from your 4 cups to float the chips a bit. Heat until chocolate is melted through, stirring the entire time. Once melted, add the rest of the milk a little at a time, keeping the heat on medium (don’t boil!). Then add the powdered cocoa, one Tlb at a time, whisking it in. Do the same with the white sugar. Once that is incorporated, slowly add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring the entire time. Continue to stir until the chocolate is hot again. Then drink and be glad you are human!
IF you wish, in the spirit of the movie Chocolat, you may add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to spice things up.
Now you know!
by Christine | Cooking, Wine Friday
I’m copying an old post on mulled wine here, plus at the bottom there are recipes for other, hot and festive drinks for the holidays. Cheers!
Who “invented” mulled wine? Why? What’s supposed to go in it, and what type of wine should you use? All the sites I found on the internet seemed to crib off each other. To distill it for you, basically mulled wine has been around as long as wine has been around. It warmed people up in winter (and some people said it was to make bad wine taste better – a winter version of Sangria, I suppose) as well as gave them something “healthy” to drink (because water – well, it wasn’t very clean “way back when”). It can be found in almost every European country, and is often called “boiled” or “burned” wine. Of course, you don’t want to boil or burn the wine! (Boiling burns off all the alcohol.)
First off, start with a hearty red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel will work nicely. If you’re making enough for a crowd, use two bottles – pour into a non-reactive pan (or hey, use that crock pot you got for your wedding and has that thick layer of dust on it – make sure to clean it first). If just for two to four people, use one bottle. DON’T use the cheapest wine you can find (although if you must, go ahead…); but likewise, don’t waste an expensive bottle. Anything that you like the taste of non-heated should be fine.
Next, add the spices. This will totally depend on your tastebuds. I like two cinnamon sticks – hubby likes only one. I generally put six to a dozen whole cloves, and if I had allspice, I’d toss that in, too. You can add ginger – either 1/2 teaspoon grated, or a small slice; or you could put in 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (but fresh is much better). I’ve seen recipes that include cardamom pods, star anise, even bay leaves. Experiment!
Your next addition should be another liquid. Amounts kind of depend. You can add up to a cup of plain water, a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of apple cider; many recipes call for adding 4 ounces of brandy (some say cherry brandy). I started with water; next time, I think I’ll add brandy AND some OJ.
Then comes the sweetener. The amount depends on how much wine you start with. So you can add anything from 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar to 1 and 1/4 cup of honey; start on the stingy side, and taste as you go. Add more if you need to. My guess is if you’re using Agave syrup or Stevia for your sweetener, you can use them here, too; just be VERY stingy with your amounts until it’s where you want it.
Lastly comes the fruit. Whether or not you’ve already used orange or apple juice, you might want to add strips of orange zest or lemon zest; thin slices of orange and lemon; either in the pot, or in the bottom of the mug.
Let everything sit on low; either on the back of your stove, or in your crockpot. As the day goes on, the spices and the fruit really open up into the wine, and turn it into something magical. Plus, it leaves your house smelling really festive.
Hot Buttered Rum
Here is my version of Hot Buttered Rum. Put the tea kettle on to boil. In the meantime, get out a couple of heavy mugs that feel good in your hand. Add a tablespoon of sweet, unsalted butter at the bottom; top with 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste). Add a shot to a shot and a half of rum. Once the water is boiling, fill the cup with the hot water about half way. Stir briskly with a fork or a small whisk, if you have one (I do). Add the hot water the rest of the way. Cuddle up by the fire and watch Scrooge deal with some pesky ghosts!
Rachael Ray has her own way of doing things, adding spices and Captain Morgan spiced rum and doing it up with a blender. Go here for that recipe.
Of course, Martha Stewart also has a recipe. It’s a bit more complicated, but still sounds just as tasty. Go here for that recipe.
Other Hot Holiday Drinks
I found a fun spot online called Secret Tips to the Yumiverse, and they have eight hot holiday drinks to indulge you. Of course, there are the coffee drinks – Coffee and Bailey’s, Coffee and Kahlua, or Coffee and Irish Whiskey – but there are some other, really tasty drinks. Go give Yumi Sakugawa a look-see for some fun and festive drinks.
There you go, my dears. Enjoy this holiday season, be safe, stay warm, and hug your loved ones. Sending out love and big squishy hugs to you all! What’s YOUR favorite hot holiday drink?
by Christine | Cooking
…Leads to Dried Tomatoes
At least, at my house this weekend, it did! There are, after all, only so many tomato salads you can eat without getting burnout. I’m not thrilled with canning in this heat, and while it may seem that having the oven on in the heat is the same as canning, let me say that an oven at 250 degrees is not as bad as bending over a hot, boiling pot of tomatoes and canning water.
So – dried tomatoes.
Fresh tomatoes, still warm from the sun. Picked 8/25/13.
I looked for recipes online, but a lot of them seemed like a lot of work. Well, okay – they called for scraping out seeds and pulp, leaving just the rind and the flesh attached. I like my dried tomatoes with heft, and I didn’t want to do the scraping. So I kept looking for a recipe that would suit me.
The sun-dried tomato recipe looked interesting, but I didn’t have screens I could use, didn’t want to worry about bugs, and didn’t want to be drying tomatoes all week. I had just the weekend.
Martha Stewart to the Rescue!
I found the recipe I was looking for at a Martha Stewart site. Not only did it explain how to make the tomatoes, but it also showed how to store them – in a jar, with olive oil and herbs. (I didn’t have any fresh basil, though – mine is all too little. So I used dried basil.)
So, I picked tomatoes, washed them, dried them, cut them in half (large cherry tomatoes, mostly, and then lots of tiny cherry tomatoes). Then I sprinkled sugar, dried basil, pepper and salt over them, popped them in the oven, and let them do their drying-out thing.
Ready for the oven! These are the bigger tomatoes, not the cherry tomatoes. Pretty, aren’t they?
As the afternoon went on, my house started smelling like yummy, professionally-made tomato soup. Rich and meaty and tomatoey – oh my! Totally delightful. After several hours – 5 or 6, I don’t remember – I took the trays out. They were browned on the edges, but ooh – tasted like a blast of tomato in the mouth and a little crunchy. Totally addicting. I believe the hubs ate a full quarter of the smaller cherry tomatoes that I’d done.
Not as pretty afterwards…I decided I’ll never dry the bright green tomatoes again. Red is so much prettier! These are sliced, by the way, not halved.
I did two – or heck, maybe three? – batches yesterday, and I’ve done one batch so far today (with the other batch still in the oven). I’ve got four jars of tomatoes put up, with more to come. And LOTS more tomatoes still on the vine!
Baby tomatoes in pint jar, waiting for its fellows.
Considering how expensive sun-dried tomatoes are in the store, I think I know what I’ll be doing every summer that we grow tomatoes.
On one of the sites I checked on yesterday (I think it was the Martha site, not sure) a commenter said they let the tomatoes cool, then froze them on the tray singly before putting the frozen tomatoes in a zip lock baggie. She said they were great to use in stews and sauces (plus you don’t get the oily taste if that’s not what you want). But the hubs wanted that olive oil. I used a Mediterranean mixed olive oil that’s available at Costco – we buy it by the gallon I think, so I have a lot of it, and it’s not super expensive. But I’m willing to bet that after several months, the oil will taste divine, with tomato, pepper, and basil flavors. A terrific base for a salad dressing.
My jars of tomatoes. I’ll be getting two more jars done tonight before I sleep.
But now, after so many dried tomatoes, I feel the need for something fresh. Like a tomato tart. So as the sun goes down, I’m off to the store for some puff pastry – because that’s something I doubt I’ll ever have the patience to make at home.
Do you like sun-dried tomatoes? Have you ever made your own? What is the most yummy thing you have ever made with tomatoes?
Until next time, cheers – and be good to one another!
by Christine | Cooking, My Garden
So, this past week I did not go to RWA National Conference. Nope. I didn’t stay up too late, drink too much, have great meals with wonderful friends, hug people I don’t see often enough. I didn’t pitch novels or jump up and down with glee with friends that had successful pitches, and I didn’t get to applaud the Rita and Golden Heart winners or console the losers.
Instead, I made tomato jam and applesauce and wrote my fingers off. It doesn’t seem to be a fair trade until I realize how happy my credit card is that I didn’t go!
So, it starts with tomato plants. The 20 plants I have in my yard yielded this:
Picked July 20, 2013
(and there is plenty more where that came from) This is only 3 pounds; I had to go out and pick more. So after my post last week about tomato recipes, the hubby says well, when are we making tomato jam? And so…this weekend it was time.
After roughly chopping tomatoes (no need to skin them, thank goodness), they all went into the pot, along with chopped onion, finely chopped green apple, cumin, coriander, salt, half cup of brown sugar and one and a half cups white sugar.
Everything in the pot, all stirred up. Let’s call it pre-jam…
As it cooked down, it tasted really yummy – hint of spice plus a hint of sweet. I was excited – there were so many possibilities with this tomato mixture. You could put it on nachos, spread it on sandwiches, use it with cheese and crackers…I wondered how many jars I’d get out of the deal. I had twelve 8 ounce jars in the canner, boiling. I’d have enough to give away to friends and family, and still have some left for us. I daydreamed as the mixture cooked down.
Finally, after two hours and change and lots of stirring so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom, we had jam.
I prepped the jars, filled them, wiped the rims…then put them in the canner and followed directions.
5 jars of jam!
After fifteen minutes, I pulled out the jars and wiped them before setting them on the towel-covered counter. It wasn’t the twelve jars I was hoping for, but five jars is better than none. Next time I’ll chop seven pounds of tomatoes instead of 3.5 pounds.
Note: We had some this morning with breakfast. And I was a bit disappointed in how sweet it was (well, hello 2 cups of sugar). Next time I’ll back off on the sugar, and maybe add another onion. Or some chili pepper, for an extra kick. I’ll still use what I have on nachos and etc, as the jam is definitely tomato-y and not strawberry-e, but I’m going to go for something a little spicier.
As for the applesauce? Four pounds of apples. 2 pints of sauce (cinnamon, no sugar). Here’s the proof.
It’s a darn good thing we have more apples on the tree…
So, while I didn’t get to run myself ragged for a week in Atlanta with a whole bunch of old friends and new friends and friends I’ve yet to meet, I did soothe my inner farmer gal by harvesting what we’ve grown, and saving it for another day. Seems a fair enough trade.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Until next time, cheers!
by Christine | Cooking, My Garden
The Summertime Garden
I love all things gardening, but what do you do when your garden rewards your patience with abundance? It’s time to get into the kitchen.
The main reason to have a kitchen garden, to my mind, is for the tomatoes. There is nothing more fragrant than a tomato plant, nothing more luscious in the mouth than a sweet tomato warm from the sun.
Unless, of course, you nom nom down on the tomatoes while you’re standing outside, and tomato juice drips down your chin…yeah, if you haven’t done that, and you have extra tomatoes on hand, then do I have some recipes for you!
Luscious Cherry Tomatoes
This year, we planted three beds with tomato plants. The first bed to go in had the cherry tomatoes (5 plants), the Early Girl tomatoes (3 plants), and the Roma tomatoes (2 plants). Two weeks later, we added an heirloom bed – Mr. Stripey, yellow pear, Pink Brandywine, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, and a Mortgage Lifter. Two weeks later, Tom decided to toss in 4 more plants – all Better Boys. So – twenty tomato plants is enough – MORE than enough – for a family of four.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using fresh, home grown (or farm stand) tomatoes.
Tomato Salad (dead easy for anyone to make!)
- Chopped fresh tomatoes (1 – 4 cups)
- Chopped fresh basil, to taste
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Black Pepper
Chop as many tomatoes as you wish. You can either make just enough for the one meal, or enough to snack on for a couple of days. Depending on how many tomatoes you use, add in the chopped basil. Drizzle with a healthy amount of extra virgin olive oil, add fresh ground pepper, and mix well. Let stand for half an hour before serving, to allow flavors to meld. Just before serving, sprinkle lightly with salt.
This can be used as a salad, or as a bruschetta topping – toast small slices of sourdough, add the tomatoes, sprinkle with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. It will last a couple of days in the refrigerator; add freshly chopped tomatoes to perk it up if needed.
The first round of tomatoes, picked about a month ago.
Toasted Tomato, Onion and Cheese Sandwich (Another easy recipe!)
- Good quality sandwich bread
- Good quality sharp Cheddar Cheese (I like Tillamook)
- Home grown tomatoes, any flavor, sliced thinly
- Thinly sliced onion, broken into rings, as desired
Like any good toasted cheese sandwich, you want to butter the outside of the bread but not the inside. Slice the cheese thin enough to melt easily, and cover one slice of bread with the cheese. Add a slice or two of tomato; top with rings of onion if desired. Add one more slice of cheese and top with the bread. Butter the outside of the top slice of bread; add to smoking hot cast iron pan, buttered side down. Butter the outside of the top slice of the bread; flip the sandwich. Press down hard with a spatula in order to melt the cheese faster without burning the bread. Once the bread is golden on both sides and the cheese is melted, the sandwich is done.
If you like, make up a bunch of these and cut them in quarters – they make terrific appetizers.
Personal Tomato Tart (Getting a little more complicated, but not too bad…)
- Sheet of frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
- 1 egg yolk
- Olive oil
- 3 to 4 different varieties of home grown tomatoes, sliced
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- White sugar
- Black pepper
- 1 Tlb Fresh Basil, chopped
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured surface, open puff pastry and lightly roll. Cut through pastry to make four pieces. Within each piece, cut lightly (but not all the way through) a half-inch all along the edge to make a border when cooked.
Mix together the egg yolk, a couple of teaspoons water and a couple of teaspoons olive oil (measurements don’t need to be exact). Brush egg wash over pastry; using a spatula, move pastry to a cookie sheet.
Within the border made by your cut, arrange tomato slices. They can overlap, or they don’t have to; if you didn’t grow them yourself, try the heirloom varieties at the farm stands. Orange and red are pretty together, and the different tomato flavors meld beautifully. Once all the pastries have tomatoes on them, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle about a quarter of a teaspoon of white sugar on top. Using a pepper grinder if you have one, grind pepper over each pastry lightly.
Put in 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. At that time, pull pastry out, top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Return to oven for another five minutes.
You can serve either hot, room temperature, or cold. Another terrific appetizer, too – make it using the entire puff pastry sheet, cut into 3″ squares after cooking, and you’ve got yourself a tasty treat.
Tomato Jam? Seriously! (Okay, you really have to like to cook!)
Saturday’s Tomato harvest – the small yellow ones are the lemon pear tomatoes, the small red ones are the cherry tomatoes, the two green and yellow striped ones toward the back are the Green Zebra, and the orangish one at the front right is the Mr. Stripey (but without stripes).
One last thing I like to do with tomatoes is make jam. Yes, you heard me. One year my dad had SO many tomatoes, that we made jam – and it was delicious. Sweet, yet tangy, it was just different enough that friends and relatives raved. I got the recipe from the box of pectin.
If you want more of a relish, try this Spicy Tomato Jam recipe at AllRecipes, or this fabulous (and a lot less work) recipe for Jennie’s Tomato Jam at Use Real Butter. (I think I’ll use Jennie’s this year!) The best thing about these two recipes is neither use pectin (in case you have a thing about pectin).
Are there other tomato recipes out there that you like to use? I’d love to hear from you about your summertime favorites, so drop me a line!
Until Next Time, Cheers!