Being an arrogant son-of-a-gun I read recipes with a good deal of skepticism, assuming the author has made a mistake.
Even if it’s a good recipe, there has never been one that I didn’t alter; didn’t make more to my liking.
So it was with the Cassoulet I recently shared and enjoyed.
I only glanced at a couple of recipes to realize that each of them obfuscated the dish and neither of them saw how to atomize, to simplify the cook.
So mentally I took the process apart and reconstructed it.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
My 292nd consecutive posting, committed to 5,000.
Time is 12.01am.
On Tuesday, Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 34* with a feels-like temperature of 25.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow are quintessentially winter.
We’re silly if we’re not well prepared.
As opposed to what’s coming Thursday: bitter cold.
War with nature.
Prepare as we may, walking about will not be a lot of fun unless we enjoy repeating, “It’s so cold. It’s so f———- cold.”
But, according to the Blog’s Winter Calendar, Jan2 to Feb13, we have only 15 days remaining to our winter.
Hang on, Sloopy.
Dinner is Lamb Shank and Bean Casserole.
Question of the Day:
What are the results of my efforts to create a meat and bean casserole?
Not a step-by-step heavily detailed recipe but a simple outline to give the reader a grasp of the structure and thus empowering the cook to bend the meal to her taste.
FOUR EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT MEAT AND BEAN CASSEROLE: Meat, beans, aromatics, and stock.
1. Choose any one or combination of meats.
After reading or talking about meats used in other recipes, talk to the butcher for his ideas, especially as to quantity.
And then pick out which meat or variety will work for our dinner and how much of it we’ll need.
Choose from sausages, duck pieces, beef, lamb/shanks, pork ribs, or anything else that sounds desirable.
A net 3/4 pound meat per serving is a good starting point, with some leftovers.
Net after discounting fat and bones.
2. Choose the fat: the meat must be seared.
The most flavorful fats are duck or goose, but if not available, use olive oil.
Although we’ll only need 2 TB of it for softening the aromatics, use a generous amount of fat for searing the meat.
Put the fat in a large fry pan, 12” is good.
Get the fat very hot.
Pat the meat to very dry with paper towels.
After the meat is seared, dump the fat, reserving 2 or 3TB for softening and caramelizing the aromatics.
Put the meat in the Dutch Oven you’re going to use to cook the casserole.
This can be done a day or more ahead of time.
So, choose and sear the meat.
Follow the directions on the package to bring the beans to ‘softened.’
The basic idea is this: after sifting through the beans to pick out any particles that have found their way into the package, put the beans in a pot of hot water, bring them to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan.
Let the beans soak away from the heat for 1 hour.
They will be half-cooked.
As for quantity, ½ pound of dry beans is more than adequate for three dinners.
Beans are high-calorie legumes and, in the overly-generous American diet, should always be eaten in moderation.
The creative phase.
I had a lot of fun thinking this through, with lots of recipes and ideas to weigh.
I settled on two groups of aromatics:
This first group must be softened or caramelized in 2TB of the fat from the meat sear.
(The rest of the fat may be discarded.)
Do not burn.
Allow about ten minutes in a hot pan.
2oz leeks, sliced into ½” pennies
2oz bell pepper, ½” dice
1/2 oz chili pepper, I use serrano, spicier than a jalapeno, ½” dice
7 cloves fresh garlic, ¼ ” dice
2oz celery, ½” dice
2oz carrots, ½” dice
3TB tomato paste
When the beans are ready, after they’ve soaked in the hot water for the prescribed hour, add the beans to the aromatics and toss thoroughly.
Slide the flavored beans over the seared meat waiting in the Dutch Oven or other casserole.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to finish and eat.
When ready to finish the cook, add chicken stock (See below) to 2” above the beans.
On the stove top bring the casserole to a boil and set into a preheated 325* oven.
Cook covered for thirty minutes.
Add the second part of the aromatics:
A loosely packed cup of coarsely chopped fresh mint and/or fresh parsley and/or rosemary
3 cups of baby arugula or another tasty green substitute. (Don’t omit this.)
6oz fresh tomato, chopped.
Continue cooking for another hour or until beans are softened to your taste and the meat is tender.
One of the great uses of chicken stock that we make at home.
Even if you don’t ordinarily make it, do it for this dish.
Buy 1 1/2 pounds of chicken drumsticks and add 2 quarts, 8 cups of water.
Simmer it for two hours.
Do whatever you want with the poached chicken but reserve the precious broth for our recipe.
To finish the casserole, assemble the meats, beans, and aromatics in a Dutch Oven.
Add stock to 2” above the beans and meats.
Bring the pot to a boil on the stove top, and then finish cook in the oven at 300* for as long as it takes for the beans to soften.
Cook covered, but check stock level frequently, continuing to add stock as the beans absorb it.
When the beans are soft enough for your taste, the casserole is done.
In my experience, recipes often overcook the casseroles.
Too much emphasis is placed on meat tender enough to fall off the bone.
But do give it at least an hour at the active simmer for the flavors to meld.
If desired, cover the dinner plates with lettuce and thinly-sliced red onions and a touch of vinegar.
Then spoon the hot food on top.
It adds a nice crunch to the texture.
Good morning on this Tuesday, January 29
We devoted this day to the creation of a recipe.
And now it’s time to go.
Che vuoi? Le pocketbook?
See you soon.