Jen's Day 1: Cassoulet

Day 4 - Goat Cheese & Veggie Pizza

Well here we go!  I'm on day 6 of 365.  I started the challenge on Friday Jan 7, mainly because the boy and I were in Boston with my family for the first week of the new year. When we are with my parents they do most of the cooking and it just didn't seem fair to start the challenge when I wasn't doing any cooking.

As you've read a bit about Carole & Dianne, you know how the challenge came about.  When Carole first told me about what Dianne was doing I thought "What a great idea!" and something I'd love to try doing.  The boy and I do get in a food rut occasionally, but I more loved the idea because I knew it would force me to look harder for recipe inspiration, get me to utilize my growing cookbook collection and force me to plan out our weekly meals a little bit better.

A bit about me.  I just got married this past summer, but have been living with my husband for just over 2 years now.  I've also been the main cook in our house since I've moved to Toronto and in with him.  The Boy, as anyone who reads Piccante Dolce knows him as, is a great cook but doesn't often offer to make dinner.  I'm not sure if it's because he thinks I'm that amazing of a cook or because he just loves being fed, it could go either way on any given day.

We have two dogs, Sampson, a 10-year old golden retriever and Stella, an almost 2-year old Puggle.  We both work in film production, so our jobs are freelance.  We go months of working insanely crazy hours where all meals are taken at work and then months of eating at home all the time.  It's the times we are both working that make dinners tough and since I am actually starting a job today I'll have a nice test of how well I can do this no repeating recipes right at the beginning.

So here we are at day 6.  I thought I'd start with a rundown of what I've cooked so far.  The first 5 days have been pretty great because the Boy actually took care of dinner two of the first 5 nights.  Not a normal occurrence, but awesome nonetheless.  I'm even going to include the stuff he made, though as he said that doesn't mean we can't eat this food again since he made it.  While that may be true, even if I was the one making the dishes he did they would be different because they'd be my versions, so for me they count.
Day 3 - Prime Rib ala the Boy

Day 1 - Jan 7 - Cassoulet with chicken and chorizo - see recipe below

Day 2 - Jan 8 - Pork Sandwiches with Broccoli Rabe - post coming soon at Piccante Dolce

Day 3 - Jan 9 - Prime Rib, Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli - courtesy of the Boy.

Day 4 - Jan 10 - Meatless Monday - Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper & Spinach Pizza

Day 5 - Jan 11 - Steak & Provolone Sandwiches - courtesy of the Boy with his leftover Prime Rib, Provolone and onions.

Day 1 - Cassoulet, hot from the oven!

I made a cassoulet as our first meal because it's something I've been craving. I just find it so hearty and warming and with the cold and snowy weather we've been having I knew it would hit the spot.  It is also something I had never made before, just at out at restaurants, and I figured what better time to try it out.  I had an idea of how to go about making it, but did a bit of research online and came up with the following recipe.  Many cassoulets have duck or lamb in them, I went with chicken because the boy isn't a fan of duck and chicken was easy to come by at my grocery store.   I also added a crunchy breadcrumb topping, not because I have had it before but because about 50% of the recipes I read had a breadcrumb topping and I wanted to try it.

Day 1 - My delectable plate of cassoulet

Cassoulet with Chicken & Chorizo
serves 6 (I've been eating leftover for lunch)

2 lbs dried Great Northern Beans
2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
3 or more chicken leg/thigh quarters
3 or more chorizo sausages
6 strip center cut bacon
1 large shallot - minced
1 carrot - chopped
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsps tomato paste

1 cup red wine
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 12 oz can of chopped tomatoes - I used half of a 1 liter jar of home canned tomatoes

6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsely
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper
1-2 cups Italian bread crumbs
3 Tbsps unsalted butter

1.  Soak beans overnight or place dried beans in a large pot and cover by 2 inches with cold water.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 1 hour.
2.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat a dutch oven over medium heat.   Brown the chicken and sausages on all sides.  Place on a plate and reserve.  Add bacon to pot and begin to render some of the fat, but don't let the bacon crisp up.  Remove to the plate and reserve.
3.  Saute the carrot, and shallot in the rendered bacon fat until the carrots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and saute for 5 more minutes.  Being careful not to brown the garlic.
4.  Carefully add the red wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up all of the tasty brown bits at the bottom of the pot.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Bring to a simmer to cook off the alcohol.  Add in the beans, tomatoes, bacon and two cups of chicken stock.   Stir to combine.
5.  Carefully nestle in the beans the browned chicken and sausages.  Add in more chicken stock if necessary to cover the beans.  Cover and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Check at about 45 mins and add more stock as needed.
6.  Once the beans are cooked through, remove from oven.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top and drizzle with melted butter.  Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake until the bread crumbs are browned, approximately 15-20 minutes.

The Cassoulet was packed with flavor and so warming and satisfying, I was really happy with it and will keep this recipe to try again next year!  I'm still having a hard time knowing that if I find something I love I won't be able to make it again for a year!!  Luckily I still love the jarred cassoulet they sell at Chabichou and the one we ate at Beast Restaurant, so I have options for the next time a cassoulet craving hits.

I'll be back on Saturday to let you know how the first few days of work and the challenge work together.  Luckily I already have planned some slow cooker chicken that can be repurposed into quite a few different things.   At least I'm planning ahead, that's one of the things I wanted to get better at with this, so it's a step!

See you Saturday!