|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)
- 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
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.
|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)