38 Power Foods, Week 25 — Dried Beans — French Beans with Smoked Sausage and Chicken

Nothing like the fragrance of rosemary for remembrance filling the house in December.

 I’m not a cheap cook, but I have always looked for inexpensive ways to provide our daily bread.  Raising a house full of kids, I often had no choice.  Even today, when we’re empty nesters with a bit more funds than when the kids were home, I look for ways to save a bit here and there because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s often healthy, too.   I buy the best I can find for the least amount of money.  If you’ve ever cooked for a soup kitchen, or worked in a food pantry, you’ll know that beans go a long way, are low in calories, and high in fiber.  They’re filling and versatile.  They can also be yummy.  Hence this pot of smokey-fragrant “French” beans with lots of

  • smoked ham (or pork chop)
  • vegetables,
  • big flavors of rosemary, thyme, and bay, 
  • browned chicken thighs, legs, (I like Kadejan chicken from Glenwood, MN) and…
  • sausage pieces.

What makes the beans French?  Probably the herbs and the nod toward a très simple and abbreviated version of cassoulet, which takes three days to make using the traditional method.  I use regular navy or white beans; the French often use  tiny white beans called flageolets.  (For my easier, but still two-day version of cassoulet, click here.  I’ll freely admit it needs better photos…phewee.) If you don’t know what cassoulet is, it’s a holiday or large-group gathering winter French meal that includes beans, vegetables, sausage, duck confit, pork, and more.  There are layers of cooking involved and a final, huge deep oven-baked pan of oh-my-cook goodness to feed the masses.  Lots of lusty red Rhone wine is required, as are copious amounts of baguette to soak up the never-should-be dry bowlful.  Cassoulet is a celebration I occasionally do for Christmas Eve.  This year, I’m trying not to conquer the world in just one day; I have no idea what we’re having, though a great big bowl of Bolognese is in my freezer.  (What riches!)

While this is not a fast recipe (nor is it the three-day marathon), it’s one to enjoy making when  you need to be at home anyway.  I think it truly is a one-dish meal.  You could add a salad if you want, but I’m not sure you need bother.  A little cheese afterward perhaps.

Maybe make this when snow flies or folks are on the way and a nice pot of anything will be the relaxed ticket for the evening.  I’m convinced the reason many people don’t cook (or say they don’t have time to cook) is because they just don’t stay at home.  Our running, crazy world keeps us distracted and sometimes isolated despite all of our “connectivity.”  There’s a lot of feeling good to be done around a bit slower life that includes some cooking and sharing of meals.   Invite someone over to play cards for the afternoon while this is in the oven (and everyone oo’s and ah’s over the great smells) or serve for a post-holiday meal to use up some of the ham you made for Christmas or New Year’s.

Here’s the “recipe” in photo form…   It’s really a method and precise amounts aren’t truly necessary.  Use your inner creative cook!

french  beans with smoked sausage and chicken
  serves 6        
 Cooks note:   You’ll need to soak a pound of  dry white beans overnight just covered with water or
                       quick-soak them by covering with water, bringing to a boil, and covering for one 
                       hour before beginning this recipe. 

Simmer over medium heat a minute or two in an 6-8 quart heavy pot*: 2 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of crushed red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper...until fragrant.  (Flavor the oil.)  Do not add salt until beans are at least half-way cooked.

Chop 1 large onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 stalks celery, and 3 carrots.

Add vegetables to pot with 2 rosemary sprigs, 1 teaspoon dried Thyme and 1 bay leaf. Stir. (The rosemary will come apart during the cooking.  You’ll remove the leftover twig at the end.)

While the vegetables cook for five minutes, or so, chop 1/2 cup smoked ham, ham hock, or smoked pork chop.  (I just cut some off a ham hock and froze the rest of the ham hock.  Cook another five minutes, stirring.
To bring up the browned bits on the bottom (deglaze) the pot, add 1/2 cup white wine.  Simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring.


Pour in 5 cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons tomato paste.   Bring to a boil.  Add one pound rinsed and soaked dry white beans.*   Reduce heat to simmer.

Cover and let cook an hour or so until beans have just begun to soften.  Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; taste and re-season if necessary.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meantime, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet heated over medium flame.  Salt and pepper well 6 chicken legs and thighs** and cook them about ten minutes on each side until nicely browned, but not done all the way through.  

Slice about 8 ounces of smoked sausage  into 1/2″ thick slices   (I used Aidell’s smoked Italian Sausage with Mozzerella; Kielbasa would be fine) and..

add to the pan of browned chicken.  Let cook about two minute or until hot.  Add chicken and sausage to the pot of beans, gently pressing chicken down into the bean mixture not necessarily to cover, but to moisten.
Bring to a boil, cover, and place pot in preheated oven.  Let bake until beans are tender and chicken is cooked through, about an hour.  Taste and re-season as needed.  Remove rosemary “branches,” but leave bay leaf in. Whoever gets it has good luck!
Serve hot in large, shallow bowls with sturdy bread and a big glass of red Rhone.

*If you use a 6 quart pot instead of a 8 quart pot, you may not be able to fit all of the chicken in it. Put four pieces of chicken and all of the sausage in the pot before baking and continue cooking additional two pieces of chicken stove top until they are done.  Cool and reserve to add to the pot when the beans are tender and  you take it out of  the oven.  I used the Le Creuset 26, which translates to close to 6 quarts.  Make sure you check your pot’s manufacturer’s directions for the safest oven temperature.  Some pots are 350 degrees Fahrenheit; some are 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

**I like dark meat for slow cooking.  If you like breasts (white meat), go ahead and use them, but I think they will get over done here unless you almost totally cook the beans stove top first and only
put the entire pot into the oven for the time it takes to finish the breasts.

about dried beans (from livestrong.com)

Pinto beans, black-eyed peas and lentils are some commonly-eaten dried beans. The recommended serving size for pinto beans is 1 cup. This serving contains 120 calories, no fat, 10 g of dietary fiber and 9 g of protein. Black-eyed peas should be eaten in 1/2 c serving sizes, which each yield 130 calories, 0.5 g of fat, 5 g of dietary fiber and 10 g of protein. Lentils should be eaten in 1/2 cup servings, each of which contains 115 calories. A serving of lentils contains 0.4 g of fat, 7.8 g of dietary fiber and 8.9 g of protein.  (White beans are a bit more calorie-wise)

about our blogging group
We’re just getting ready to take a break from group  blogging for the rest of December….We’ll be back cooking in cahoots come January:
 I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty beans at these sites:

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

 If you liked this, you might also like:
Sing a new song; cook some beans,

Cassoulet — Why did I wait so long to make this?

Oh, for years I’d made a couple of things approaching cassoulet–the incredible French bean dish made with pork, sausage, lamb, duck…you name it…someone somewhere in France puts it in there. (The name comes from “cassole d’Issel,” an earthenware pot in which the dish is made. I had no such dish.) I had even come up with a delectable bean soup with some of the necessary components (another blog.) But I’d never bitten the bullet and really done the thing right. Somehow, as I mentioned in one of the December blogs, I decided this was the year we’d have it for Christmas Eve dinner. Well, we had it all right…and it WAS wonderful and it WAS time-consuming and it WAS earthy and filling and, well, heart-warming and, ok, it was (and is) just a little bit of a sexy dish that you have no choice but to put your heart and soul into or it’ll never get done. You must dedicate yourself to this dish. Be commited, as it were. It took me this long to find the time to blog the process (and process it is); forgive me. One note before I forget:

If you are going to make and photograph cassoulet, get a new camera FIRST. My old camera died and died and some of the pictures are taken with that beast—- and some are from my 2 megpixel phone and some are…I don’t even know how I got them… They aren’t professional, but they document the process. (I got a new Sony 12. something mp for Christmas AND a new computer; not using either one here…. Coming up, I promise.) Ok, back to cassoulet and why it’s so good and why it’s so loving and lovely.
To begin with, it’s French. If you say it right, it just sounds like something very good to eat…to cook..to experience… hmm —to have a little bit of France wherever you might be… God is so very good to provide a good wineshop down the street (Coaltrain’s is my favorite in Colorado Springs; Thomas Liquors in St. Paul)……… and the wine you drink with it helps the whole thing along.

“I’m making cassooolay………”

Who else in the world would spend 3 days on baked beans?

“We’re having cassoolay……”

Thank God someone else is going to eat this; there’s enough for a week…We can do

———a party! Whose anniversary is it?

“We’re having a Beaujolais with our cassoolay….”

—- This is sounding better by the minute…..I think I WILL finish making the _____.

“We might have a Rhone with our cassooolay….”

In fact, this is sounding like we should begin right now….and maybe make more. (not)

So, I was definitely making cassoulet, but how was I to do it? I have no less than 20 recipes for the dish and those are from my books, not off the net. Remember I’ve collected cookbooks and magazines from long before Epicurious took off. Maybe you have, too. For years, traveling with my little band around the globe, there was just me, the cooking friends I knew, and Elizabeth David or MFK Fisher or Craig Claiborne or JOY or James Beard or Julia, as people now call her….. There was the long awaited GOURMET or BON APPETIT. Cooks, home cooks, just mostly had their heads. There was no Tyler Florence; no food network! And, years ago, you just didn’t pitch old magazines– thinking the recipes were all available on-line. You kept them all. You remembered where most of the recipes were and developed indexes in your recipe boxes (or notebooks) for the rest, including menus. Those days of keeping everything are gone (for me), but I do still have friends whose basements are full of GOURMET. Now I think they’re pretty smart as GOURMET is no more. I donated my entire collection of cooking magazines (except for the favorite holiday issues from the last year or two) to the library and, I’m guessing even they pitched them. Tangent.
Anyway, I didn’t dare start cruising the on-line sources. I had enough possibilities. Also, on-line searching has become so cumbersome and repetitive that I become quite sick of it fast. I read two of the recipes thoroughly well, nearly well, anyway…a long version and a short version. The long version, was, of course, on page 399 of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, vol. 1 by Julia Child, and is called “French Baked Beans…Cassoulet.” The short version was from Molly O’Neill in the December, 2009 issue of COOKING LIGHT, on page 136; CL lightened the recipe up a bit by using chicken sausage. So I went from 1961-2009 and why not?
I then looked over the rest of the recipes, even one from the BETTY CROCKER INTERATIONAL COOKBOOK, from which I, some years ago, learned to make lovely eggrolls, beef strogonoff and minestrone! BC threw a little dried mustard into the beans. I wasn’t doing that. Otherwise, the flavors seemed similar.
Oh, do remember, we’re talking about December 23 (look at the stollen recipe pictures from the New Year’s Day brunch blog and see the wine glasses still sitting around from another holiday dinner the night before) and I’m teaching two little kids to make Christmas bread while I work on the cassoulet in the breaks. The recipe I settled for was something in between the short and long version and I put away the BC totally. Back on the shelves went my beloved Patricia Wells and even THE AUBERGE OF THE FLOWERING HEARTH, which had no cassoulet that I could find, but always holds my heart never-the-less. I did not have enough time to cook lamb, duck, pork and garlic sausage. So this is what I did about the meat:
  • I used a small pork shoulder (well trimmed!) for the basic bean cooking, keeping out pound and a half – or so to make the sausage.
  • I bought duck (legs) confit for a horrible price at Whole Foods. (Worth it if you’re rushed.)
  • I had my talented husband take the extra pork and make French garlic sausage, as no one that I could find sold it nearby. I found directions on-line, but later noticed Julia had one.
  • I (sob sob sob) skipped the lamb, despite having some lamb stew meat frozen in my big garage freezer.

I did not document the process precisely as there was not one inch of unoccupied space in my galley kitchen during the two days before Christmas. My pictures are helpful, however, and I will bring together the recipe I think I made. Also, I have some in the freezer and can unthaw it and look at it if needed. If you live nearby and want to taste this, let me know! What’s beautiful about this sort of dish, is that just like your own favorite baked beans or chili, it’s never exactly like any recipe.. it’s how you liked to make it that day. It changes with the year, the availability of ready cash for duck confit, the wine vintage and with how your heart is cooking.

Take the plunge; make a date; invite a group for a birthday or Valentine’s Day or to ski and–
serves 12
Cook’s Note: You must begin a day or two ahead for this version…You can almost finish the dish the day before you need it if you begin two days ahead. You can then just do the final baking on the day you need to serve the meal. Read through the recipe before starting. This is done in stages…first the soaking of the beans, then the cooking of the beans and pork, overnight in the frig, the making of the sausage, the first cooking of the casserole, the second cooking with all meats and bread crumbs… You’ll get the idea; give yourself time. It’s worth it. It’ll hold once done…just don’t let it dry out. If it does, warm it up with the addition of a little chicken stock or white wine.

1 1/2 # white beans of your choice, rinsed and picked through for bad beans and stones
3# pork roast, boneless and trimmed well (or you can bone it) (You’ll cut some into 1-2″ pieces to cook with the beans and later use the rest to make a quick sausage)
1-3T canola oil, divided (you’ll need some to fry the sausage)
3 large onions, chopped coarsely
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 large carrots, cleaned, peeled and sliced thickly (you don’t want them to disappear in the long cook)
2 cups chopped celery
1 14 oz can of tomatoes, crushed or 6 T tomato paste (Julia’s first choice)
1/2 bottle of white wine (I used an inexpensive Chardonnay)
2 32 oz boxes of chicken stock, low-sodium
Bouquet garni, composed of 2 -3 stalks celery, 8 stalks of parsley, 2 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs thyme*
Kosher Salt/Freshly ground pepper
4 Duck confit legs (or 3 grilled duck breasts, fat removed and meat chopped after grilling)
2# “French” garlic sausage (recipe below–need 1/2 # bacon and 3-4 garlic cloves in addition to above pork)
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
2t olive oil
*Bouquet garni: Tie together these vegetables/herbs with kitchen string; you remove them before baking the cassoulet.
Directions: Be brave, loved ones……… Don’t do this alone; find a friend!
In a large stockpot, bring beans and water just to cover to a boil for five minutes. Turn heat off, cover, and let beans sit for an hour. If desired, you can, instead, let beans soak overnight.
In a large skillet, brown a little less than half of the remaining pork, cut into 1-2″ pieces, in a little bit of canola oil. When well-browned on all sides, remove to a paper-towel covered platter and add onions, celery and carrots to the skillet. Add a little extra oil if needed. After the vegetables are almost soft, add the garlic and tomatoes and saute for another 3-4 minutes, stirring.
To the stockpot with the beans, add the drained and browned pieces of pork and then sauteed vegetable mixture. Pour into the pot half of the chicken stock and all of the wine. Add water to make about six cups total of liquid or to make sure there is plenty of liquid in which to cook the beans. Season with about 2 t kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 2 to 2 1/2 hours until beans are tender, watching liquid level and adding more water or stock as needed. Beans should boil freely. Let the pot cool and refrigerate overnight.
Meantime, make the garlic sausage and cook and bone the duck. You can do it that night or the next day, depending on the time you have. If you do it that night, refrigerate the meats separately.
Making the Garlic Sausage:
You can look a recipe up on-line (NYTIMES: Nov 4, 1981: Saucissons a L’Ail (French Garlic Sausage) by Craig Claiborne– or many other sites) or you can try the version we made, which was tres delicious. Be bold; try it!
Take the other pound and half or so of lean pork roast and about a half pound of good-quality bacon and finely mince/grind the two together in the food processor, fitted with the sharp blade. Season with TABLE salt (not Kosher or sea–it must really blend) and finely-ground pepper. Add 3-4 finely chopped cloves of garlic and mix very well.
Take out a tiny patty and fry it up. How does it taste? If it is bland, adjust seasoning and fry and taste again. Some people like a bit of allspice, a tad of sugar or some wine added to this sausage. Si place. (Do as you like.)
To a medium skillet, add about 1T of canola oil and place the sausage into the pan, creating a very large sausage patty. Fry on one side over medium heat until golden and flip. Finish cooking on the other side. Remove to paper-towel covered platter and cool. Cut into 1-2″ pieces. Sample some. You should have more than you’ll need. Cut a bit of baguette, add a little cornichon- or any pickle-add some grainy mustard and eat some of your sausage with that. You deserve a snack. God is, indeed, Good. Now you’re ready for onward and upward.


Place your duck legs into a “pammed” baking casserole and bake at 400 degrees 10-12 minutes. Cool and bone. Reserve meat.

Preheat oven to 325 (350 for altitude baking) Take bean mixture out of the refrigerate and warm up over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the rest of the chicken stock. Taste. If you season now, remember that you will soon add sausage that is well-seasoned. Add boned duck. Pour mixture into a large Dutch oven or very large casserole and bake for about 2 hours.

Reduce oven temperature by 50 degrees. Remove Dutch oven and add cut-up sausage. Stir well and taste. Season as needed. Sprinkle bean mixture with fresh bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake @ 275 or 300F for another 1 1/2 -2 hours, depending on
altitude. Beans should be very tender; casserole should be nicely browned. Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Do let people help themselves from the stove for an informal meal.
Wine: Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone–nothing expensive or fancy.

Serve with: a little bread and butter……..salad if you want.
Dessert: Oh, not this night. You need a little cognac only for a digestion!
Bon appetit, my friends. If you’ve waited this long to eat…-or read this blog!- you should have a GOOD APPETITE BY NOW!!!
Listen to lots of good songs while you cook this; cook with friends and share this wonderful dish,
In Memoriam: Tavern on the Green, NYC — So sad.