Sunday, March 27, 2011

Menu #26 for the Gutsy Cook's Club - Cassoulet!

Another week has ramped up to demonstrate menu #26 of The Gutsy Cook's Club:
Roasted Beet and Feta Salad



Dessert: Baked Pears in Marsala

We are all cooking/baking from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible by Victoria Blashford-Snell. Monica of Sweet Bites (mastermind behind the Gutsy Cook's Club) has received permission from Victoria for each host to present the recipe in his or her blog as well. If you would like to read a brilliant write-up of this delicious, savory and sweet menu, please go to The Gutsy Cook's Club Announcements segment. You will not be disappointed! Monica has posted great ideas, antidotes, and history behind the meal. I chose a light salad and dessert because the dinner is hearty and deserves colorful, bright, fresh vegetables and fruit to compliment a heavy main course. Cassoulet has enamored me since I read about the dish in Julia Child's first French cookbook published and I have only made the dish once before (not Julia's recipe but another's). The dish took 3 days total. Victoria's cassoulet took me (1) day and my only alterations were using chicken legs instead of duck; duck legs would have required an hours drive; and andouille sausage filled with chicken, feta cheese, and herbs. We loved every bite; extremely filling. The roasted beet salad was picked out of a fascination for any recipe that compliments beets. Beets are a healthy root vegetable and gorgeous for plating purposes (definitely messy as well). The dressing used to toss the salad together has great flavor and depth with just a hint of sweet from the honey. The pear dessert was chosen for simplicity, color, and plating. I chose to serve ladyfingers on the side, soaking up the Marsala sauce, waiting to be used as a scoop for the slightly sweetened whipped cream. The pears were light with a tinge of cinnamon and Marsala flavor. We enjoyed all three segments of the menu and I could see myself making each dish again.


2 cups dried Great Northern Beans

1 T. olive oil

8 Italian pork sausages

9 oz. pancetta, diced

2 onions, finely chopped

1 carrot, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 duck legs

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T. tomato paste

3 1/2 cups hot water

one 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes

1 cup white wine

2 cups bread crumbs

1 garlic clove, minced

1 T. chopped parsley


1) Place the beans in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 2-3 hours. Drain.

2) Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook for 7-8 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a plate. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until browned. Transfer to the sausages. Add the onions and carrot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Set aside for 1 minute.

3) Preheat the oven 425 degrees F. Prick the duck skin all over with a fork and put on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the duck tothe sausages and reserve 2 Tablespoons of the fat in the pan, Reduce the oven temp to 275 degrees F.

4) In a large flameproof casserole, layer half the beans, the onions and carrot, sausages, pancetta, duck legs, thyme, and bay leaves, followed by the remaining beans.

5) Dissolve the tomato paste in the hot water, then stir in the tomatoes and their juices and the wine. Pour over the beans. Cover and bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and uncover. The cassoulet should be thick, but moist. Taste and season with salt and pepper and add a little hot water, if needed. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour more.

6) To make the topping, mix the bread crumbs and garlic. Heat the reserved duck fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the crumbs and cook, stirring often, about 7 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stir in the parsley. Remove the cassoulet from the oven and stir. Sprinkle the bread crumb topping over in a thick, even layer, and serve hot.

Roasted Beet and Feta Salad


6 small beets, scrubbed but unpeeled

2 T. olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, thinly sliced

4 oz. arugula

4 oz. feta cheese, cubed

2 T. chopped mint

For the Dressing

1 T. balsamic vinegar

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 t. honey

3 T. olive oil


1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the beets in a roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup water and drizzle with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Roast about 1 3/4 hours, or until tender.

2) Uncover the beets and let cool. Peel and dice the beets.

3) Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and honey together in a small bowl, then whisk in the oil. Combine the beets, onions, and dressing in a bowl and toss. Sprinkle the arugula, feta, and mint over the top. Toss gently, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Baked Pears in Marsala


6 firm, ripe pears, such as Bosc, peeled, halved, and cored

1 cup dry Marsala

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

one 3-inch cinnamon stick

1 cup heavy cream

2 T. confectioner's sugar


1) Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the pears in an ovenproof dish, cut side up, and sprinkle with the Marsala, sugar, and vanilla, then pour in 1 cup of water. Tuck in the cinnamon stick.

2) Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, basting occasionally, until tender.

3) Meanwhile, in a chilled bowl whip the cream, gradually adding the confectioner's sugar until firm peaks form. Serve the pears warm (or cool to room temperature and refrigerate until chilled), in their syrup, with the whipped cream.

What a whirlwind of a month. Thank you for letting me host the menus for the month of March. What a great experience this was!


Vicki said...


Anonymous said...

Anecdote perhaps? Interesting blog.