I have had some really, really good baked beans in my life. Being a New Englander, and having spent years in Maine – which, as it may surprise you, takes beans far more seriously than Boston – baked beans were a big part of my culinary upbringing and development. My mother makes an absolutely killer batch of “Calico Beans,” for example, which includes lima beans, butter beans, kidney beans, and pork-and-beans, along with generous amounts of bacon and chunk pineapple. I know! My mouth is watering too.
When I wanted to find out a little more about cassoulet, my mind went straight to Julia. The recipe for cassoulet takes up six pages of Julia Child’s nonpareil Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She explains that,
The composition of a cassoulet is, in typical French fashion, the subject of infinite dispute, so much so that if you have read or heard about cassoulet and never tasted it, you come to expect a kind of rare ambrosia rather than the nourishing country fare that it actually is. As cassoulet is native to a relatively large region of France, each part of which has its own specialties, arguments about what should go into this famous dish seem based on local traditions.
Thus, Julia’s chosen recipe includes a roast pork loin, a lamb shoulder braised in wine, sausage made from scratch, beans, salt pork, meat bones, and “aromatic vegetables.” She recommends two to three days for preparing this correctly.
Soooo… maybe I’ll make it Julia’s way another time. It does sound delicious, but the version I chose, with black-eyed peas, seemed to have an appropriately Southern vibe, especially with the addition of the smoked paprika.
- One pound of black-eyed peas is about 2 cups. Expect them to take between 20 and 30 minutes to get tender enough to add to the skillet.
- I added 2 tsp of smoked paprika to food52’s 1.5 tsp. Mainly because I love the stuff and wanted a little extra smoke.
- I couldn’t find an 8oz package of smoked sausage, but I could find a 12oz package. So mine has a bit more meat. Maybe it will make up for the fact that there isn’t any preserved goose or wine-braised lamb shoulder.
- A quick spin in the food processor for some french baguette leftovers yields a nice batch of breadcrumbs. They end up varying in size in a nice way, like panko. Next time I would consider making a second batch of crispy bread crumbs separate from the cassoulet to sprinkle over each serving dish. I really liked the texture contrast and buttery flavor of the toasted crumbs, but I wanted just a little more.
- I removed the black-eyed peas from the salted water about ten minutes early and let them finish cooking on the stovetop with the rest of the mixture, then breadcrumbs and into the oven.
This recipe was really, really good. It made me think that if this quick and easy version is this good, how good must be Julia’s, or a version with goose confit and artisanal sausage in Toulouse, France?