White Bean Cassoulet & Cornbread

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I’m gearing up this week to fly out to Chicago, and then D.C., for a super fun weekend with two of my best, oldest friends.  So I haven’t had much time the past week or two for writing…although that’s not to say I haven’t been cooking!  In fact, a new special friend and I have just started cooking together recently, and last night he happened to come over on one of my days off, which means I got to consciously do my grocery shopping with a meal half-in-mind.

It also means I got to pick up this little gem of an artichoke, which was on sale and from California!  I’ve never cooked an artichoke before, but Alice Waters made it sound pretty easy, so we ate it as the after-dinner course, dipped in butter melted with garlic and thyme, and a few toasted slices of this week’s bread: jalapeno cheese.

It’s been awhile since I’ve made cornbread, and I had the perfect little end nub of a jalapeno left to add just the right amount of zing to it.  Alice Waters is my guide for anything simple-bakey, like cornbread or pancakes.

This is a super quick one to whip up, simply stirring together all of the following in a mixing bowl: 

  • 3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Once that’s mixed, stir in 1 egg, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 of a fresh jalepeno (diced), and 4 tablespoons melted butter.  Pour the batter into a loaf pan or pyrex, and bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes.

I actually like to bake the cornbread until it’s almost done, and then ten minutes before taking it out, melt a little pot of butter, honey, and salt together (use my single-serving Turkish coffee pot, perfect for melting stovetop and then pouring), and drizzle it over the top and let it caramelize during the last ten minutes of baking.

And for the evening’s main event, I made a white bean cassoulet.  Maybe it’s not totally fair to call it a cassoulet, because I think the crowning feature of that dish is the baked breadcrumb topping, which this was conspicuously lacking, but all the other elements were there.  

I started some white beans soaking this morning, and cooked them for about half an hour while I chopped all my veggies, to soften them up.  I had bought an Italian sausage at New Seasons for the occasion, which I froze for an hour or two before I started cooking so that I could slice it into perfect little thin discs more easily.
I started by cooking the sausage in the big pan I was planning on using, then setting them aside but leaving the grease in the pan to use in sauteeing the following: 1 diced shallot, 2 carrots and 4 stalks of celery, both cut in pretty big chunks, a bay leaf, and some chopped fresh thyme.

After about 15 minutes I added the sausage, the cooked white beans (which initially began as 1/2 cup of dried beans), and about 3/4 of a large can of plum tomatoes, which I broke apart with my hands and added with the sauce they came in.  
Then I added a few inches of water, and about a tablespoon of vegetarian Better Than Bullion (I think the real-deal chicken stock here would have been a little too rich, with the sausage and all), kept it on medium-high heat, and let it all reduce down for about half an hour.

Super delicious, and enough left over for both our lunches!

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Anecdotes? Let me know about it here!