Spring Cassoulet

… peach and tomato salad
Gone again… back again

the farm lane

the farm lane

This time we were off to Ohio, a land of heat and humidity, but one of family celebrations, as well. This one was Carol’s brother Alan’s annual pig roast on his farm just south of Lancaster – where Carol grew up – which is just north of Logan – my birthplace – and about 30 miles southeast of Columbus – where I grew up. Having lived in San Francisco for nearly 20 years, a trip “back east” is July is like a hot, wet slap in the face, and Carol tends to obsess over the heat. To my way of thinking, it’s good to go someplace really hot from time to time – not too often. I don the Ohio July uniform of a loose tee shirt, shorts and sandals and live with it. It’s the clammy, usually way too cold air conditioning that gets to me.

dude... check out these Ohio tomatoes!

dude... check out these Ohio tomatoes!

All of that, to say that I haven’t contributed to eats for a while.


I found this recipe for Spring Cassoulet in the CUESA newsletter and though it’s a bit past spring, I had all the ingredients and SF is cool enough just now to enjoy a bean dish.

So, you make a pot of beans and throw some sausages and pancetta on top, and sprinkle that with baby lettuces and edible flowers. How easy and yummy is that? Quite.

But Dominique Crenn of Luce at the InterContinental hotel showed me a few tricks to make this simple thing sophisticated and sublime.

For the beans, she cooked bacon, shallot, garlic, celery and carrot in a generous amount of olive oil and deglazed the pan (I used my bean pot) with white wine. OK so far… that’s the way I start beans. For the twist, she tied up that vegetable bacon mixture in cheesecloth and put it back in the pot for the beans. Viola… no pesky vegetable and bacon pieces in the beans, just their flavor. She used Rancho Gordo White Runner Beans, I used Golden Eye.

Chunks of lamb sausage, pork sausage and chopped pancetta, sautéed with onion and garlic, then cooked with red wine and chicken stock, made it a cassoulet. I used Fatted Calf Merguez and Mild Italian sausages.



The recipe is for eight – why are so many recipes written for eight? It’s way easier to double a recipe than halve it. Oh well, that’s what this blog is about… I halved the recipe, making it seemingly for four, but we ate all the meat and half of the beans. I have about four cups of really fine beans left for other uses. (I poached two eggs in the bean juices this morning for breakfast, served with about a cup of the beans. Yum!) I rewrote the recipe the way I cooked… beans go on first, then I cooked the meats while the beans made happy in their pot.

Spring Cassoulet with Rancho Gordo Beans
Adapted from a recipe in the CUESA Newsletter by Dominique Crenn of Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco (April 3, 2010) Serves 4

For the beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces bacon, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic gloves, crushed
1/2 celery stock, diced
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 sprig thyme
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 pound white runner beans (picked over and soaked in cold water for 24 hours and drained) (I used Yellow Eye beans soaked six hours)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons salt

PREPARATION for the beans
1. Heat oil in a large pot, when the oil starts to smoke, add bacon and render out the fat.
2. Add shallots, garlic, celery, carrot, and cook until browned but not burned, scraping the bottom of the pan as the vegetables cook. Deglaze pan with white wine and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
3. Wrap the cooked bacon-vegetable mixture, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf in cheese cloth and tie tightly with twine. Place it in a large pot. Add beans and chicken stock and cook for 25 to 30 minutes at simmer. Once beans are cooked, bring to a gentle boil and add salt. Cook for 5 more minutes.
4. Remove sachet and put beans in a bowl over an ice bath, keep beans covered in their own juice or they will peel.
5. When ready to serve, gently reheat the beans over low heat, adding chicken stock as necessary to keep moist.

INGREDIENTS or the sausages
2 lamb sausages, sliced into chunks (used Fatted Calf Merguez sausages which are skinny)
1 pork sausage, sliced into chunks
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
3/4 cup red wine
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION For the sausages
1. Sauté sausages and pancetta over medium to high heat to render the fat. Add 1/2 cup red wine, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Sauté until onion and garlic are tender.
2. Add the remaining 1/4 cup red wine and deglaze the pan for about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. _
3. Remove from heat and set aside. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

INGREDIENTS for the garnish
Pea sprouts, Edible flowers, 4 ounces morel mushrooms, lightly sautéed with shallots and deglazed with sherry.

To serve
Spoon beans on a plate, add lamb and pork sausage using a slotted to spoon. Garnish with pea sprouts, flowers, and mushrooms


To compliment the rich bean dish, I made a small peach and tomato salad, also from the CUESA Newsletter. I had never thought of such a combination for a salad. Joyce Goldstein says, “In Spain adventurous young chefs have been playing with novel fruit combinations: gazpacho made with melon and tomato, salads of melon and tomato, and peach and tomato. It is fun to try these new pairings, but be sure to taste the fruits before you dress the salad. (Remember that the tomato is a fruit, too.)” “Simply wonderful,” sez I.

Peach and Tomato Salad
Adapted from Joyce Goldstein, Author of Mediterranean Fresh (W.W. Norton, 2008), for CUESA’s Market to Table program on August 2, 2008. Serves 2-3

2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, cut in large dice
1 large peach, peeled and cut in large dice
2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced red onion
About 1 to 2 ounces black pepper citrus dressing
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh mint or basil
Citrus and Black Pepper Dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

Combine all in a mixing bowl and gently toss with the dressing.

One thought on “Spring Cassoulet

  1. The first cassoulet I ever had was at your digs on Harrison Street – where you cooked the duck at least a day ahead of time to get it really authentic. Where’s the duck?????

    Loved the tomato picture. Somehow my tomatoes never reach anything akin to that. Tried them in containers this year to foil the squrirrels put something else very tall (must be deer) got to the leaves. Took one nip out of a tomato and left it alone. Even deer don’t like my tomatoes. The Boston Globe Magazine has two tomato/ peach recipes this Sunday – You can find them at BostonGlobe.org



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