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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Crazy about Cassoulet

My adventures in the kitchen have reached a furious and tiring pace! This fanatical fever has caused me to cook some awesome dishes, but also, some MAJOR flops. As I continue to get more confident, I can tell things are going to go well within about 30 seconds of the experience. Usually if it is going to be a BAD experience, I will have a) spilled something really dramatically, or b) Matt will have injured himself with a knife...all within 30 seconds of beginning.

Thankfully, neither of these things happened for this recipe. In fact, I knew that this was going to be great. I had never cooked with leeks before and was thoroughly enjoying that experience, and just all in all, I was happy to be doing what I was doing, when I was doing it.

When I decided to cook this recipe for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits, I was mostly drawn to the "with Biscuits" part. I thought it sounded AWESOME to be able to cook biscuits on TOP of the dish...whatever cassoulet is. Then, to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into, I googled "Cassoulet." In case you were wondering (and I obviously was), Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the South of France.

So, it's a stew...why couldn't we just call it that?

Anyways, this was delicious. I thought I would hate leeks because I am not a big onion person, but the leeks were sweet and almost had the consistency of noodles in the dish.

Here is a picture of all the veggies cooking away...

Then here's a pic of the biscuit dough...

And here it all goes into the oven...

And then here's the finishes product!

Don't let the bland colors fool you. This dish was TASTY and I had tons of leftovers so I had a nice warm meal to make it through the strangely cold and snowy mid-April days. Spring, are you there?

Anyways, here's the recipe for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits from none other than, Veganomicon.


2 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed well and sliced thinly
1 small onion, cut into medium size dice
1 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 (15 oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1/2 can)

3/4 cup plain soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening


PREHEAT THE oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to boil. Once boiling, let cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain immediately so that they do not overcook. While they are boiling, you can prep the rest of the veggies and start preparing the biscuits -- the potatoes should definitely be done by the time you are.

Now prepare everything for the biscuits. You are not going to make them yet, but it's good to have everything ready when it comes time to top the stew. Add the vinegar to the soy milk in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl.

Now leave that alone and start the stew:

Mix the cornstarch into the vegetable stock until dissolved.
Preheat an oven-safe skillet (if you don't have that, just transfer contents to casserole dish), preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Saute in the oil the leeks, onions, and carrots until very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Keep the heat moderate so they won't burn.

Add the garlic, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and salt, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cooked potatoes and frozen peas, then pour in the vegetable stock mixture. Raise the heat just a bit; it will take a few minutes but the liquid will start simmering. Once it does, lower the heat again. Let it simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, but no longer than that. If you need more time for the biscuits, then turn off the heat under the stew.

Back to the biscuits:

Add the shortening to the flour in small slivers and work it into the dough with a fork or with your fingers until large crumbs form. You don't want to cream it in; there should be clumps. Drizzle in the soy milk and mix with a fork until everything is moistened (some dry parts are okay).

Wash and dry your hands, then lightly flour them and get them dirty again. Gently knead the dough about ten times right in the bowl, just so that it is holding together and not very sticky. If it seems sticky, as in sticking to your fingers, then gently work in a little more flour. Set that aside and check on your stew.

The stew should be simmering and slightly thickened. Mix in the beans. Now, let's add the biscuits. Pull of chunks of dough that are about slightly larger than golf balls. Gently roll them into balls and flatten a bit; they do not have to be perfectly round. Add them to the top of the stew, placed an inch or so apart.

Transfer the whole megillah to the preheated oven. If you are worried about spillover, place on a rimmed baking sheet, but we've never had that problem. Bake for about 15 minutes. The biscuits should be just slightly browned and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and use a large serving spoon to place some of hte stew and a biscuit in each shallow, individual bowl. Sprinkle with a little chopped, fresh thyme.

Serve at last! Especially yummy when you break up your biscuit and mix it in a bit with your stew.

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