The Grand Finale

So the journey of the roasted chicken is now complete. Though, I think of it more along the lines of victory in a single battle, with the war very much undecided. It all started with the idea of roasting a chicken. Really, as loathe as I am to admit it, I was really shudder baking a chicken. The initial foray was due to Jill’s grill ceasing to work, due to an apparent lack of propane, despite the tank feeling full. I hate propane. This is one of many reasons, but not the primary one. Real (wood or hardwood charcoal) fire is just much better on all fronts. But anyway, I roasted (baked) the chicken with inspiration from Mr. Steingarten with favorable results. So next up was the whole roast chicken. I was left with a lot of scraps, including the carcass, which Jill forbade me from throwing away.

Then, like a poulet in a pillowcase to the head, it hit me. Make stock. And thus was the genesis of the cassoulet. Now, cassoulet is technically a winter dish, but I love it. And since it was taken off the menu at Chiboust, where I had my birthday dinner (again, thank you Mom) and has been off for some time, I was on a slow withdrawal. So I decided to make a cassoulet. Cassoulet is, at its most basic, a white bean stew with sausage. Sausage and white beans are really the only requirements. And after reading a very good vegetarian cassoulet recipe, I guess really the only requirement is white beans. Cannellini beans are the preferred varietal. And from there, you just add all kinds of heartiness to make your cassoulet.

I referred to three different recipes off Epicurious.com, though I made greater use of my own chicken stock, seeing as how I spent a significant portion of time yesterday making it. Today, was cassoulet day. I think it turned out really well, so I’m actually going to share.

First, in a medium sauteing pan, I browned four pieces of bacon, chopped up into small pieces. After they were browned, into a bowl they went. In the bacon grease, I browned four turkey-chicken sausages provided by Jill. Then into the bowl with the bacon. In the remaining grease went the following:
– three leeks (white – light green parts), split down the middle and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
– five small carrots, cut similar to the leeks, unpeeled
– one large fennel bulb, cut similarly
– four cloves of garlic, crushed
– one bay leaf
– salt
– peppper
– ground cloves

I browned all of this mixture with a splash of olive oil, as the veggies took up a lot of the grease, of which there wasn’t much in the first place. It took about 15 minutes on medium heat. Then I put this pan on simmer after adding the bacon and sausage back in.

In a bigger pan, I chopped up one cippollini (sp?) onion, and browned that with some allspice and merlot vinegar. Once the onion was browned, I added three cans of washed cannellini beans. Then I added the contents of the other pan to this big pan (which I was going to put in the oven). I added four cups of my homemade chicken stock to the pan and brought it to a boil. Once boiling, I put the whole big pan into the oven at 350F for 30 minutes.

In a small magic bullet, I ground up a handful of parsley, olive oil, and six cloves of garlic. I put this in a small frying pan and got the oil hot. Then I added a few cups of coarse breadcrumbs and browned those. Out comes the cassoulet, breadcrumbs on top. Then back into the oven at 400F for 20 minutes.

Out comes the cassoulet. I go off to the track for a set of 400s. Jill cheers me on through the 400s with rousing calls of, “CASSOULET!!” Finish. Run home. Immediately recover with some cassoulet, just to test it. Delicious. Reheat over low heat on the stove. Serve to everyone. Success.

Really, I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever made, and I’m even happier because largely the recipe was my own creation, as most of mine are, but I always like it when I really make something good that I also “invented.” And so ends the chicken saga, and I think it’s probably time to get back to talking about things like BAMFs and new bikes, especially with Interbike approaching quickly.

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