Sunday, November 07, 2010
Well wonder no more, I have here the answer for you. I think "casserole" came from the French word "cassoulet" and, as with so many things involving taste buds, the French know how to do it right.
The 6-quart pan is big enough to roast a chicken but runs for about as much money as a Toyota. No, seriously. They're upwards of $300 and there is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING that can induce me to spend that much on a pot, I don't care if it is French. Did you know that just to replace that cheap little knob on the top is $15? Aliéné!
I did, however, find the same pot--the VERY same--made by Lodge (the company that produces great Dutch ovens and cast-iron cookware) for a mere $50. Now that's what I'm talking about. Still, not a bit of nothing but certainly more financially doable than $300. But what about the quality, you say? Well, let's just say that after 10 years my Lodge pot cracks. Darn. I'll just buy another one. In fact, I could buy FIVE more and still be floating high. I think I'm safe.
Anyway . . . on with the recipe. Not only will it make you weep from the aromatic fragrance of it cooking, it just gets better each day of leftovers. Yes, it is a bit heavy on the proteins but so what? It's winter . . . live a little. And serve it with a big loaf of crusty bread.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces thick-cut bacon
1 pound fat sausages of your choice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans (or great northern)
8 ounces carrots, sliced
1 14-ounce can petit diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut the chicken into large chunks. Thickly chop the bacon and cut the sausages into thirds if they're large. Heat the oil in your Dutch oven casserole dish and cook the meat in batches, or until just browning on each side. Remove from oil and set aside. Add the onions and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes until softened.
Stir in the beans, carrots, tomatoes, tomato puree, spices and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough of the stock to just cover the meat and beans, you don't want things swimming around. You can always add more stock during the cooking if needed. Cover dish and cook 1 hour.
Add more stock if necessary. Spread crumbs over the top and cook uncovered for 40 more minutes or until browned.
You can also try adding other vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli or beans for variety. Last time I made this I also threw in about 12 ounces cooked orzo I had frozen in the freezer to use it up and the pasta was excellent in it.