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New Hampshire “Cassoulet”
By Charlie Burke

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Cassoulet originated in Languedoc in southern France, and in that region, where
is remains a popular and iconic dish, it always includes dried beans, confit
(goose meat preserved in goose fat) and traditional herbs and flavoring.

Elsewhere, the term is loosely applied to dried bean casseroles with ingredients
varying by locale and usually containing meat or sausage. In central New
Hampshire, then, high quality smoked bacon and sausage from the local
smokehouse, dried navy beans and our own garlic and dried sage made a
natural combination.

Serves 10 – 12:

2 pounds dried beans, rinsed (soaked overnight if not from the most recent
3 pounds pork sausage (or a mix of sausage, pork butt or ham), cut into ½”
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
¼ lb smoked bacon, chopped
1 medium onion
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried sage or 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh
½ cup dry red or white wine
Extra virgin olive oil – ¼ cup, plus extra for sautéing and for final assembly
2 cups chicken stock or chicken bouillon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh bread crumbs

Drain the beans and put them into a heavy pot. Add the garlic cloves, bay
leaves, sage and ¼ cup olive oil. Add water to just cover, bring to a boil over
medium high heat, and then adjust the heat so that the water is at a simmer.
Add water as needed to keep beans barely covered. Cook until the beans are
just soft enough to mash under a knife; do not over-cook. Remove the beans
from the heat.

While the beans are cooking, in a sauté pan, cook the sausage or mix of meats
until it is well browned. Remove the sausage and rendered fat to a plate and
add the bacon to the sauté pan over medium heat. When the bacon begins to
color, add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring until the
vegetables are soft. Add the wine and cook until the wine has nearly
evaporated. Mix the sautéed bacon and vegetables into the beans, adding salt
and pepper to taste.

Place the bean mixture into an oiled shallow terracotta casserole or other
shallow baking dish and sufficient stock to bring the level of liquid to just
below the surface. Press the sausage or meat mixture down into the beans and
pour the rendered fat over the top of the beans. The surface should glisten from
the fat; if not, add additional olive oil so that the beans on the surface are
moistened (The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to 48
hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding).

Heat the oven to 400 degrees, sprinkle the surface of the cassoulet with the
bread crumbs and bake until the liquid is bubbling and the surface is browned –
approximately 45 minutes.

Served with a robust red wine, along with a green salad and crusty bread, this is
a great rustic meal for your family or for entertaining. Leftovers make flavorful
sides for meat or fatty fish, such as swordfish, which can actually be broiled
atop the cassoulet, providing a crusty base upon which to serve the swordfish.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
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