Friday, January 8, 2010

Am I the worst blogger ever?

Probably. I have abandoned the blog for many months now and have also abandoned cooking for the most part. Sad, I know. My last serious cooking undertaking was Christmas Eve when I made cassoulet for my family. It was a great meal and it was wonderful to enjoy it with my brothers and parents. I would also tell you about baking cookies later, but it was pretty much... awful. Let's just say, I should never bake. Ever.

But back to the cassoulet. Or rather, what was supposed to be cassoulet but what turned into a lovely sausage and white bean soup. I suppose I should be embarrassed that after slacking off in my cooking efforts for a few months I can't even produce a simple cassoulet, which, incidentally, I have made before with great success (if I do say so myself). But the resulting flop was truly so remarkable so I can't muster being embarrassed. I'm too full of pork induced happiness.

2 lbs. white beans (navy, cannelini, etc.)
1 onion
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
5-6 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
3-4 springs thyme
1 lb. bacon
4 sweet Italian sausages
2 lbs. pork steak
14.5 oz can of chopped or diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil

Soak the beans overnight. You may use a quick soak method if running low on time, but I usually prefer a longer soak. Drain the beans and save the soaking liquid. Begin chopping your vegetables, making sure to cut small, even pieces. (To avoid crying, it helps if your onion is cold and your knife, sharp.) Save the skins and tops to add to your freezer bag for vegetable stock. You do save your scraps for homemade liquid gold, don’t you? I thought so.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put your Dutch oven (or whatever you are using to cook in) over medium heat. Melt 1 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil. Add your chopped bacon to the pan. After it has browned, remove bacon and add the Italian sausages. Brown on all sides; don’t worry about cooking them through; that will happen in the oven. Remove sausages and cut into chunks (not too large as you will be eating them soon!). Next, brown the pork steaks, remove and cut into chunks. Deglaze the pan (there should be lots of yummy brown bits stuck on the bottom) with some of the soaking liquid, chicken stock or white wine. Scrape up the bits then add your mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery). Stir occasionally until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and continue stirring one minute.

Add the meat back to the party (don’t forget the bones from the pork steak- they’ll add lots of flavor), along with your chopped tomatoes. Put the beans on top then cover with water (see, I told you to keep that soaking liquid for good reason). Yes, this will look like a lot of food, but it will cook down some. Also, this soup is very easy to freeze and keep for a long time. Back to business.

Cover the pot and bake in the 400 degree oven for about 1 ½ hours. Time will vary based on your beans, so start checking for bean doneness after you pass the hour mark. When it’s finally finished, (hooray!) remove the bones, bay leaf and thyme springs, season to taste with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Even if you don’t like a lot of heat, the cayenne is necessary; otherwise your soup will taste like it’s missing something.

I hope you enjoy this yummy soup as much as my family did and it will warm you during this cold spell. And here's hoping your next mistake is as fortuitous as this one was.