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American-Style Cassoulet

This is a cleaning out the freezer dish. I have a husband who frequently brings home animals: rabbits, pheasants, quail, venison. This is a perfect way to clean out the odd bits of things that have found their way into your home, and a great way to address some of the issues that lean wild meats have (low fat content). Hours of cooking in the liquid tenderize the meat, and make it fork-tender. This does take a while to get going – but be patient – this one is is worth it.

Why “American-Style” this French dish would never involve whiskey or slab bacon. This is Mid-west America’s answer to the classic.

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American-Style Cassoulet

1 lbs dried great northern beans

1 lbs nitrite-free bacon

4 lbs meat (this is largely up to you – you want a mix of fatty meats and lean meats in here. We regularly use about 1 1/2 lbs of game bird like quail and pheasant, 1 1/2 lbs of venison sausage, and 1 lbs of pork. You want a neutral sausage, don’t use a maple sausage.)

1 lbs carrot, peeled and diced

2 large onions, diced

16 cloves garlic, large dice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

14.5 oz can diced tomato

1/3 cup whiskey

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 bay leaves

4 cups broth (chicken)

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water. You want to use about six cups of water, and for the beans to be well under the surface of the water. Soak at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and set aside.

Fry the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan, and saute the carrots in the bacon fat for five minutes on medium heat. After five minutes, add the onions. Cook the onions for about five minutes for another five minutes, then add the garlic. Let the vegetables sit in the pan for a few minutes, then add the salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and oregano. When the spices are well-incorporated, add in the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Add the whiskey and cook until the whiskey is evaporated. Finally add the can of tomatoes. Mix this vegetable mixture into the beans. Chop the bacon into small chunks and add to the beans. Mix to combine well.

Brown whatever meat you are using in a pan with a little olive oil. You do not need to cook this all the way through, you just need to establish a crust on the outside. When I use a loose sausage, I form the meat into small meatballs and fry them on all sides.

Arrange your browned meats into three plates or bowls – one of the leaner meat, one of the fattier pork, and one of the sausage.

Arrange one-fourth of the bean mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Arrange the fattier pork on top of the beans. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Place the sausage on top of the beans, and pour the remaining beans on top of the sausage. Press the mixture lightly with your hands to even the whole beast that you’ve created. Stick the four bay leaves into the beans. Pour the stock over the beans. You should just barely see the liquid through the beans.

Cook, covered, for two hours at 350.

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Pheasant Tikka Masala

Last Saturday, our friend Sarah married her long-time love, Madhav. We were thrilled to be a part of their big day. We were honored to be invited to celebrate their marriage with such a beautiful ceremony. It amazes me how a truly beautiful event touches all of the senses – and this wedding certainly did! The air was thick with the aroma of flowers, the room was full of color and glittered with sequins from a thousand saris, everywhere were the well-wishes of the guests, and the food. I can’t begin to talk about the food.

the beautiful couple – credit Miriam Hermansen Photography

In homage to our happily married friends, tikka masala.

pheasant tikka masala

pheasant tikka masala

for the pheasant:

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp cayenne

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

salt pepper

6 pheasant, dressed

for the masala:

2 cans diced tomato

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 large thumb ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 white onion, diced

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp tikka paste

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp coriander

for garnish:

cilantro leaves, fresh

1 cup cream

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

salt

1. Mix yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Pour yogurt mixture over pheasant and marinate overnight. If you can’t wait for overnight, then marinate for at least 4 hours.

2. Turn oven to broil. Remove excess marinade from the pheasant, and arrange pheasant on baking sheet, and broil for 20 mins, or until slightly brown.

3. While the pheasant is browning in the oven, brown the vegetables in a skillet. Heat oil in a skillet, and saute onion for a for minutes until softened. Add ginger and garlic and heat until fragrant. Add tomato paste, and heat for five minutes. Add mixture to crockpot.

4. Mix diced tomato, garam masala, tikka, cumin, chili powder, and coriander.

5. When the pheasant is browned, all to crockpot and pour diced tomato mixture over top.

6. Cook on low for 8 hours, or until pheasant is tender.

7. Mix cream and spices into the pheasant. Serve over rice and top with cilantro leaves.

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