After more decadent eating out this week (roasted duck with rabbit consomme here and a fabulous cheeseburger here), I finally decided it was time to get back into the kitchen. Since I've had all things French on my mind these days, I decided to try cassoulet.
Or shall I invoke scare quotes and say, "cassoulet"? Because I'm sure that any genuine French person would scoff dismissively at my attempt.
I couldn't blame them. There's nothing truly authentic about it. For one thing, the recipe belongs to Mark Bittman, who I like very much, but who is quintessentially American in his approach to food: cook what you like, the way you like it, however that might be. He's no slave to tradition, which I think may be one of the defining French characteristics when it comes to food. It's also probably why so many of us Americans are Bittman fans.
Anyway, I liked the look of this recipe, because it leans more on vegetables than meat (another Bittman hallmark), and as evidenced by my recent eating escapades outlined above, I'm doing fine on the protein side. That said, I did enjoy choosing the meat for the cassoulet, of which I needed one pound, and which according to Bittman could be "Italian sausages, bone-in pork chops, confit duck legs, or duck breasts, or a combination." I settled on half a pound of sausage and two little pork chops.
So, here's the thing about it being "cassoulet" and not cassoulet, in addition to the recipe's provenance. I didn't really follow the directions all that well, some of which was intentional and some not. I changed a few small things on purpose, like using rosemary instead of thyme, and leaving out the cayenne since I didn't have it, although I think that would have been a nice addition. And I didn't add quite the full four cups of cannellini beans--too beany!-- I reduced it by about a cup.
But I made one big mistake not on purpose which is why my dish turned out more like a soup: I added all the broth at once, because I misread the recipe. Turns out you're supposed to add it a little at a time, as needed. I just dumped it all in, and it never really reduced to the right consistency.
I also noticed a mistake just now that I didn't even realize I had made last night, which is that I forgot the bay leaves entirely. Oh, my. I was really out to lunch.
It looked and tasted pretty nice, though, definitely worth a repeat performance, but this time following the directions a bit better. It wasn't really cassoulet--more like pork chop soup, which, when I think about it, doesn't sound too bad either.