My favorite savory dish of the winter season is easily (after chocolate pudding) Cassoulet. This white bean and three-protein stew of sorts is meant to keep you warm despite the frigid blows of Provence’s Mistral winds and delivers on its promise. The meats are cooked over a bed of white beans which, towards the end of the cooking process, are baked uncovered until the legumes caramelize over rendered pork fat.
Cauliflower, Kale and White Beans
6ouncesPork Bellyor 4-5 sliced of bacon, preferable thick cut
2cupsCooked white beans
1/3cupVegetable brothchicken stock (or, if you're out, water with some herbs and a touch of olive oil)
2TbspOlive or grapeseed oil
2-3slicesSourdough breadpreferably whole wheat (though a nice piece of focaccia will also do this dish justice)
3TbspFreshly grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper To taste
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Place a oven-proof cast iron pan or Dutch oven on the stove and turn the heat to medium low. Dice the pork belly or bacon into cubes and place in the pan, cooking these over low heat to render out the fat. Once you see color on the bacon, lower the heat and add the white beans (these should have already been drained).
While the beans are sizzling away, cut the cauliflower in half and remove the stems and leaves. Cut the cauliflower into slices about 2" wide and place over the beans and cover (if you don't have a cover for your pan, place a cookie sheet on top and remember to have a towel or oven glove nearby to remove it later). Pour in the broth or water and keep cooking, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Stem the kale by holding the stem in one hand and pulling the leaves back from the top down. Place these on a cookie sheet and toss with olive or grapeseed oil, a touch of salt and place on one of the shelves in the oven.
Place the pieces of diced sourdough bread into the cast iron pan or Dutch oven and bake, uncovered, in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven once the cauliflower starts to brown. Toss roasted kale over the cauliflower and serve with a touch of grated parmesan (seasoning to taste with salt and pepper if needed).
On an unseasonably cold evening like tonight, and without the necessary sausage and chicken legs required for a proper Cassoulet, we dug out the last chunk of pork belly from the fridge, a head of cauliflower, couple slices of sourdough,a bunch kale that was on its last leg and a few cups of white beans I’d cooked for a citrus bean salad that never came to fruition. We rendered, roasted and tossed up the best version of a Cassoulet that an unlikely group of ingredients could produce.