When I moved back to the States, I was awfully thankful to have moved back to a food-centric city like New York. It certainly helps having a distraction from all I left behind in France. But these days, I’ve been eating on dime. Fortunately, I recently started working in a sleek little tapas restaurant, which gives me enough culinary thrills to make it through with my weekly pot of beans at home. (Pickled ramps do wonders for my morale!) Nevertheless, I had a bag of dried beans lying around (gulp) and had the ambition to recreate a rustic French dish by the name of cassoulet. It is a slow-cooked stew of white beans with the hearty addition of various meat parts, which can include duck legs, sausages, and pork pieces. I have never actually made this dish for myself. But like most time-starved French home cooks, a delightful version can be found in the prepared food isle at the local Monoprix in Paris. But this time around, I was nostalgic for some French comfort food this rainy week in New York. Although I had aimed for a traditional meat-centric version, I was discouraged my local Greek bodega does not carry any of the duck fragments traditionally used in the recipe. So I took the challenge to make it sans meat, which turned into a tasty abomination of the classic. Since I had the luxury of an afternoon off, I was hoping to cook it slowly until it attained the same silky hearth of my fond food memory of the dish. And I was quite pleased with what I came up with! As soon as the thyme hit the sautéing carrots, celery, and onions, France was all up in my face. It made me nostalgic for the sunshine in the South of France and the lazy nights C would reheat a jar of this French favorite. I’d recommend to serve with baguette, but that’s one bit of nostalgia still to be satisfied…
1 16oz. bag of white beans, soaked in water overnight and drained
1 medium red onion, chopped
12 oz. chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 tomatoes chopped finely
5 stalks of thyme tied together with string (bouquet garnis)
1 handful chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
zest of 1 lemon, minced
1.) Sautee onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper for 8 minutes until caramelized and tender. Add chopped garlic, thyme, and tomatoes. Stir until fragrant.
2.) Add the soaked beans and 5 cups of water to the mixture. Let come to a simmer.
3.) Cook over a low heat for 60-90 minutes until the beans are soft and the broth thickens. Add more water if needed.
4.) Pull out thyme bouquet. Stir in lemon zest and parsley. Season to taste! And enjoy!