November 22, 2008
When the Diva, Judy Witts asked me 'what are you making for supper?' I was almost embarrassed to say not Cassoulet. And when she suggested that we post a 'come one, come all' let's cook together on our ongoing, occasional Whole Hog blog, I realized that a simple 'you too can do this tonight' version of French Pork & Beans was the answer.
When not cooking a full-blown Camp Cassoulet version (see the official recipe here!), I sometimes just wet the beans, add anything vegetable lying around and toss in some artisanal bacon at the end. Eh Voila! my version of pork and beans. Next, toss some leftover cheese in a pan with a slice of baguette on top and this is a simple supper that stands up to a bottle of new wine, Beaujolais or otherwise.
My non-recipe recipe goes like this:
Take 500 grams or about 1 lb of dried beans ( I used the fat pillowy Coco beans we grow here in Southwest France), put them in a pot of water to soak during the day.
Drain the now plump beans and put them in a pot. Cover with just enough water, about 3-5 cm or 1 1/2 - 2 inches. Put over a medium hot burner.
Add a couple of carrots, an onion, a few shallots, and two cloves of garlic chopped in small bean-sized pieces. Add a bay leaf, some fresh or dried thyme, a few black pepper corns and some lovage or celery leaf. Cover, let come to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 45-50 minutes or until the beans are tender. Taste and salt as desired.
While the beans are getting done, fry up some good thick pieces of bacon, a hunk of ventreche, salt pork, ham or a couple of sausages. That's the Pork part. Then toss the meat and any fat into the Beans, stir and serve.
Too simple, too delicious. And it takes about 5 real minutes of chopping, and 45 minutes of cooking. That's less than an hour; less than the time it takes to run out to the store or order mediocre takeout. While the beans are cooking you can read a book, take a walk, or just watch the leaves drop from the trees. And you don't even need a can opener.
As I said, it's not cassoulet, but it is very tasty. And the next day there are leftovers for lunch with an egg dropped in the pan to poach in the bean liquor.
Buy good beans, use good water, kiss your butcher, pay attention. That's what makes the difference!This is Simple French Food.