Quick cassoulet with garlic spread toast
Not only is February the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s also American Heart Month, which makes it a month to cultivate a healthy heart that is full of love. In honor of this month of romance and wellness, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes.
When I think of the ultimate romantic dinner, my mind goes to a time long ago when I found myself in Paris—the City of Love—with a handsome man at a charming bistro. Rather than ordering from the menu, we left our culinary fate in the hands of our waiter, who soon brought us bowls of fragrant, flavorful cassoulet. This iconic dish originated in the South of France—a complex stew of meats like duck and pork as well as white beans or haricots blancs. It is a culinary classic that is at once unassuming and complex, rustic and sophisticated.
Though I barely remember the man, that meal is forever seared in my memory. As soon as I came home from the trip, I made it my goal to recreate the taste of that evening.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that true cassoulet—the kind found in French country kitchens and romantic restaurants—can take up to three days to make. So many ingredients, so much preparation, so many hours at the stove.
Given a lifestyle that could never support a three-day cooking event, I set out to make a re-imagined version of cassoulet, one that is full of those unforgettable flavors, but takes much less time. And the bonus for this dish is that it is also surprisingly heart healthy.
I always serve this cassoulet with a sliced baguette topped with garlic spread. I roast fat heads of garlic until the cloves are buttery soft and full of mellow, nutty flavor—nothing at all like their uncooked counterpart.
This is the perfect dish to serve your Valentine or anyone you want to impress on a cold winter night. A dish that will make them shout “ooh la la”!
Kettle Cove Cassoulet
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (yellow or red), diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2–4 cloves garlic (depending on size and preference), minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken or turkey, cut to bite sized pieces
1/4 pound turkey kielbasa (sliced into rounds) or turkey sausage (crumbled)
15-ounce can white Cannellini beans, drained
14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Sauté onions and carrots over medium heat until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1–2 minutes.
Add kielbasa or sausage and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
Add broth, wine, chicken, beans, thyme and tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer.
Top with breadcrumbs (they’re totally optional) and place in the oven and bake until the broth is bubbling and breadcrumbs are nicely browned.
Roasted Garlic Spread
4–6 whole garlic bulbs unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste (I prefer flaked sea salt)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice the top off each head of garlic, just exposing the top of each clove, but leaving the bulb intact.
On a large sheet of aluminum foil, place the garlic bulbs with the cut side up and drizzle the oil on each bulb. Sprinkle each one with sea salt.
Wrap the bulbs tightly in the foil and roast for about 30–45 minutes, depending on the size of the bulbs. The bulbs should be fragrant, very soft, and dark golden brown.
Cool at room temperature. When cooled, squeeze each clove from the bottom of the bulb into a mixing bowl.
You can make the spread by mashing with a fork. I like to use my mini-food processor for a very smooth spread.
The spread can be refrigerated for up to one week, but it probably won’t last that long.
Want to add even more nutrition to your dish? Put a serving of fresh baby spinach in the bowl before you add the cassoulet. The heat of the broth will wilt the spinach, which adds color, flavor, and nutrition.
I make a double batch of roasted garlic every time. Add it to your cassoulet to make the flavors even deeper and more complex. Mix a little in your favorite vinaigrette. Toss hot green beans with a spoonful of garlic spread for added zing.
This is a great make-ahead recipe. Prepare the cassoulet up to 24 hours ahead of time. Refrigerate the prepared dish until you’re ready to put it in the oven.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at www.candacekaru.com.