The Wine & Food Affair cookbook, in just a couple of months, has provided me with a ton of cooking inspiration. I love sitting in bed and paging through it’s colorful recipes and wine pairings (tell me you do this too. . . ). Maybe it’s because so many of the wineries in the book evoke vacation memories of places I would rather be. Maybe it’s that I love a good food and wine pairing, or, even better, love wine IN food and pairing that food with wine. Whatever the attraction, this cookbook keeps coming out, and it was a rustic cassoulet recipe that inspired me this week. As always, I made adjustments based on what we had in the house. We missed our weekly grocery shopping trip this week, and since we are going away soon are trying not to stock up on too much.
I started my cassoulet by soaking a 16 ounce bag of Great Northern beans overnight. I had them on the stove, with a lid on, which is how I always soak beans. UNTIL this Monday. Toward the end of my work day I walked into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. . . and a mouse ran across the room. Mice and rats are my major, major, major phobia, and I have been afraid to leave any food anywhere since. I actually didn’t even want to cook at all. We had the cleaners come in, set traps, got those ultra-sonic plug in things. You would think the two cats would have done something! Anyway, I had a terrible fear that somehow I would find a mouse in the beans a la Anne of Green Gables and the plum pudding sauce, but these beans were fine. I just won’t be leaving them out to soak ever again.
When it was time to get cooking, I put on some Harry Connick Jr. Christmas music and got the beans boiling on the back burner while I crushed a couple of cloves of garlic and roughly chopped a yellow onion. I also roughly chopped three slices of regular old breakfast bacon. I would have preferred to use Irish bacon, but again, using up food in the house was a priority.
I added the bacon and onion to some olive oil and got it all sizzling, then lowered the heat and added the garlic a few minutes later. To that I added about three cups of chopped carrots and a package of chicken apple sausage. I am loving chicken sausage these days; it’s so delicious and such an easy way to add protein to a dish.
I spooned in several cups of beans and then poured in two cups of chicken stock and one cup of Amista Zinfandel. The rest of the Zinfandel? You guessed it, the perfect wine pairing for the cassoulet.
Before I put the lid to the French oven on, I added a sprinkle of thyme and some ground black pepper, lowered the heat to almost nothing, and let it go for about 45 minutes. Yes, this is one of the huge perks of working from home. I was able to get this started and then go back to work, something I definitely will never take for granted.
We didn’t end up eating for several hours, so the cassoulet had a ton of time to come together, the flavors of all of the ingredients really all working well. This dish tasted like a cozy winter night; the addition of a slightly jammy, slightly spicy Zinfandel on the side and a dessert of brown butter cookies rounding out the perfect evening. It helped take the edge off of the early darkness!
I love one pot dishes like this cassoulet. They feel so stick-to-your-ribs but also kind of healthy. I’ll be making this one again, that’s for sure.
In the meantime, I am walking around my house with a running dust buster and making as much noise as possible to keep our mouse at bay. And not sleeping at all. Small animals (including squirrels) terrify me. Do you have a major phobia?