Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vegetarian Flageolet Soup: A Perfect Solution

It's a very rich soup that doesn't taste typically vegetarian.  The beans get very starchy and yummy.

Well, it's Thursday.  For me that's the busiest day of the week, especially in the winter.  As a family we have Pilates, school, Taekwondo, basketball and homework.  In between all of that dinner has to have it's rightful place.  Usually, this is when soup comes in handy. 
Soup is not only nutritious, but it's easy to put together quickly.  Here's the recipe for the soup I put together this morning in about 20 minutes.  I did a bit of preplanning like soaking the beans overnight and having homemade chicken stock thawed out beforehand.  See the bottom of this post if for tips if you haven't preplanned. 

This recipe is so much better with homemade chicken stock.  Don't know how to make chicken stock?  Don't sweat it.  Here's a video tutorial with my then three year old son.  It's really simple.  If he can do it, so can you.
Jennifer Werner's Vegetarian Flageolet Soup


  • 2 tbsp. butter (I use Organic Valley cultured butter)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium leek
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 3 ribs of celery (chopped)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 4 crimini mushroom (chopped)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme tied into a bouquet garni
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 3 tbsp. dry white wine
  • 32 oz. homemade chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water
  • 12 oz dry Flageolets (French White Beans) Mediterranean Specialties 
  • salt/pepper to taste
Melt the butter and oil together in a large Dutch oven.  Add the leek and cook on medium low until leeks are tender. Increase the heat to medium high and add carrots and celery.  Cook until the vegetables begin to caramelize (about 2-3 minutes).  Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to release the browned vegetable sugars.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.  Pour in the chicken stock and beans.  Use the 1 cup of water to rinse out the stock containers.  Make sure the beans are covered by at least one inch of liquid.  Add the thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil to the soup and bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 2 hours.
Remove the bouquet garni and serve. 
You may decide to use a potato masher to crush some of the beans.  You may also decide to puree the soup in a blender.  I personally like the texture of the vegetables.

Serve with bruschetta made with bread from Breadfarm or Avenue Bread Company and don't forget to go to Seifert and Jones to pick up a nice red wine to turn this into a lovely meal.

Interested in a different soup option?  Don't know how to chop/wash leeks?  What is and how on earth do you make bruschetta?  Click here on one of my vintage posts to find out? 

***If you don't preplan here are some hints to get around that aspect while still not sacrificing time or
  1. Use a slow cooker.
    Still want to use those local beans from Mediterranean Specialties?   Not all beans have to be presoaked.  If you cook your soup all day on low in your slow cooker your beans will still be cooked to perfection. 
  2. Thaw frozen chicken stock in your microwave.
    Honestly, I usually forget to thaw my stock before hand. Sometimes I don't decide on making soup until I wake up in the morning.  If this is you don't worry.  Just loosen the lid on your stock container and microwave the contents on high for 5 minutes.  It won't completely thaw out the stock, but it will loosen it's grip to your container.  Matt and I often put a huge chicken stock ice cube into the pot and let it melt into the soup. 
  3. Use what you have.
    This tip works for just about anything.  Have some old stock in a box that's about to hit it's expiration date?  Use it.  Don't have a leek but you have an onion?  Use it.  Your fresh rosemary died at the first sign of frost, but you have dried rosemary?  Use it (cut the amount used by a third).  Don't stress out.  You might actually create something new and amazing.
  4. No stock (homemade or boxed) on hand?  Use water.
    Sometimes you just run out.  I go through a lot of stock in my house and it's usually available, but sometimes I just forget.  Water can be used in place of stock very easily.  Just remember to add extra seasoning to compensate.  Salt and pepper have been around for centuries for a reason.  Use them and taste your soup to be sure it's just the way you like it.
  5. Gah!  I don't have any white wine.  or  I don't want to open an entire bottle of white wine just to deglaze the pan for soup.  or I don't want to use wine at all in my soup.
    Wine is a flavor enhancer and it's also prevents your veggies from sticking to the pan.  If you don't want to use wine just use water. 
    If you don't have or don't want to open a bottle of white wine here is a good trick that was laboriously tested by Julia Child herself.  Use DRY VERMOUTH!  Vermouth is a fortified wine and can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for white wine in cooking.  Remember Julia was advocating for flavor when most Americans didn't have wine in their homes.   However almost every American had Vermouth in the 1950's. 
Here are some lovely pictures I took for those of us who need visual inspiration.  Have fun!
I really love these beans and the company puts out many unique varietals.  You can sometimes find them at Haggen, but they are usually cheaper at Mediterranean Specialties.

Use what you've got!  My thyme is still going strong but  my rosemary kicked the bucket a few months ago. 

I didn't want to open an entire bottle of wine.  Vermouth it is!

Veggies are cookin'!

Here's the bouquet garni and I love how the mushrooms float to the top.

Savor and enjoy. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Uncured Ham and Sauteed ("Browned") Cabbage

Now you see why they call it browned cabbage.  The honey and the butter caramelize and make some tantalizing goodness.

About eight years ago I was 32 years old with a one and a half year old baby boy.  My husband and I had just moved back to Bellingham two years earlier and well with our young babe we spent a lot of nights in.  It was then that we started watching this cooking show on PBS called New Scandinavian Cooking.  Over the years the show has changed hosts but the shows concept has remained the same.  Professional chefs that cook outside using local ingredients from various Scandinavian locations.  For the shows purposes this means Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.  Here's a link to the website for the show that exists today.  After watching several shows Matt and I noticed that the ingredients used in these Nordic environments are incredibly similar to ours here in Bellingham. Aside from the alcoholic beverage, aquavit, most of them are also available from local vendors and distributors.
I printed out a recipe for Sautéed Cabbage (aka browned cabbage) by Tina Nordstrom from the show eons ago, and we still use it today.  This side dish is really sweet and is almost like a dessert.  It also goes especially nicely with a salty ham.  It's a really nice salty/sweet pairing.  I bought a Beeler's Ham from the Community Food Co-Op last week and we are having it tonight with the cabbage. 

I searched and searched for the link to Tina's cabbage recipe and had no luck finding it so I decided to write up a post and share it with you. 

Sautéed/Browned Cabbage
by Tina Nordstrom
Episode:  Christmas Buffet

  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (Go to Mediterranean Specialties for the best ones)
  • 1/4 cup honey (I still have some local stuff leftover from Joe's Gardens)
  • butter for frying
  • salt and pepper
Slice the cabbage thinly and sauté over medium heat together with the onion for a couple of minutes.  Mix in the apple juice, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon sticks, and honey.  Cover and let simmer until the cabbage softens.  This will take about 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and season with salt and pepper.

Don't forget to go to Seifert and Jones and have them help you find a good wine to pair with this.  They will never fail you.

Some of the essential pantry ingredients.  By the way, the cultured butter is critical for the lactose intolerant. 

The cabbage here is almost done.  It needs about 5 more minutes of cooking time to brown up.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our Local Christmas Feast

It's Christmas Day and I thought I would share some pictures of what we had for dinner.  Our rib roast from Hemlock Highlands was complete and amazing.  Matt always uses up the leftover juices to make an au jus and  then we have French dips later on.  I'll have to share that recipe as well.  Leftovers are almost as important as the entre itself.  
I am wishing all of you a most wonderful holiday. I hope it was special and full of fun.  Ours definitely was. 

Our rib roast from Hemlock Highlands.  Leftovers will definitely be cherished and recipes shared.  Stay tuned.
Roasted potatoes Ina Garten style.  I used thyme instead of parsley.  Super crispy and very yummy.
We broke open a Chateau Neuf de Pape that I bought Matt for his birthday from Seifert and Jones.  The best place for sure to buy wine in Bellingham.
After almost a year of recipe testing I finally found my favorite recipe.  It's a combination of various ones.  I plan on sharing soon. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve: Getting the Hemlock Highlands roast ready.

Here's the roast, marinated and ready to rest in the fridge.
Hey there friends.  It's Christmas Eve and we are having a rib roast for Christmas Day.  We get our beef from Hemlock Highlands in Skagit County.  In fact this year we ordered 1/4 of a cow which means that we get to have more choices for roasts. 
Hemlock Highlands specializes in Scottish beef.  This beef comes from the more modest hairy cows (or coo's) and it is the best tasting beef I've ever had.  I've had beef from all over the world and this tops even Kobe beef.
That being said, I thought I would share the recipe I use for our Christmas Day main course.  I do a dry-rub that must sit at least overnight.  It is true indulgence and is a special treat for a good cut of beef.  There are not many ingredients and the process is very simple, but you do have to plan ahead.  At the very least I let the rub sit on the meat overnight.  24 hours is ideal. 

Dry-Rubbed  Rib Roast 
by Mario Batali
The Babbo Cookbook

Ingredients:2 tbsp.. sugar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. hot red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. feshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry porcini mushrooms, ground to a fine powder in a spice grinder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine above ingredients in a small bowl.  The ingredients should form a thick paste.  Dry the roast with a paper towel and rub the paste over the entire roast.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight or 24 hours. 
Remove the roast from the refrigerator about an hour before roasting and brush off excess marinade with a paper towel. 
Roast in the oven at 350 degrees.  Cook until internal temperate is 140 degrees for medium rare or 160 degrees for medium.  For a 4-6 lb. roast it should take between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  That's about 20 minutes per pound for rare and 25 minutes per pound for a medium rare roast.  Here's a good link for some general guidelines. 
Let the roast site about 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Comfort food for a summer rain.

I don't know about you but when it's raining I feel like eating something warm and comforting.  Sometimes, that's difficult to do when it's a rainy day in the summertime.  You have all these summery vegetables that I associate with hot weather and what I really want is a nice yummy soup of sorts.  Well, after a long hot streak we are finally having some much needed rain and I needed a meal to go with it.  So I'm making Shashuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce).  I got this idea a long time ago when I found that I had WAY too many peppers to use up from my CSA box.  Shakshuka is an awesome meal that works for rainy days and uses up those summer peppers.

Joes Gardens has a really nice and varried selection of peppers right now.  If you make this you can make it as sweet or spicy as you like.  All their peppers are clearly labled so you can tell what's sweet and what's spicy.  If for some reason you are confused you can always ask.  Everyone there knows their stuff. 

I got my Shakshuka recipe from  If you haven't visited this site you really should. It really is an impressive cooking site and I love how organized the recipes are.  I dream of my blog looking similar to this but I don't have a staff or the skills, so I go for the simple over here.  My blog isn't fancy but it's me.  Simple and real.  Yep that's what I do here.

As always I fiddle with my recipes. was my inspiration but I changed things up a bit.  Here's my adaptation of Shashuka.

Jenn's Shashuka 
(adapted from

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers in garlic and olive oil (drained)
  • 2 Annaheim peppers (charred)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (charred)
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 29 oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sheep milk feta (very important for the lactose-intolerant)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • warm Naan bread for serving

Preheat oven on broiler setting.  When oven is hot place the fresh peppers on the upper rack below the element.  Turn every few minutes and charr each side of the pepper.  After peppers are severely blackened place them in a heat proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  The heat from the peppers will steam them.  When cooled remove the plastic wrap and prepare the peppers. Slide the inside stems, seeds, and outer blackened skins from the peppers and throw away.  Chop the flesh of the peppers and set aside.
Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat.  Add peppers (including the jared ones) and onion and cook until soft and golden brown.  About 6 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook 2 more minutes. 
Add tomatoes and 1/2 cup water to the skillet and reduce heat to medium and simmer.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook until the mixture has thickened slightly (about 15 minutes).  Taste and see if the sauce requires salt. 
Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distrubted across sauce's surface.  Cover the skillet and cook until yolks are just set (about 5 minutes).  Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and cilantro. Serve with Naan bread for dipping.

I start this dish early.  I get everything prepped so that all I have to do is prepare the eggs right before dinner.  If you prep it like this dinner only takes about 10 minutes to prepare in the end.  I serve this with a nice spicy Spanish red wine.  I recently made a big run to Seifert and Jones yesterday so I'm all stocked up. 

This is my comfort food and busy day meal.  If you have the prep time it comes together quickly and easily.  Have fun and let me know what worked for you.

I am also making a basic side salad to go with this.  Just romaine lettuce with a spicy vinaigrette.  Here's the recipe. 

Ensalada Mora (salad with cumin and paprika) 
from LaCocina De Mama' by Penelope Casas

3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 large clove of garlic (crushed)
1/2 tsp. paprika (preferably smoked)
1 tbsp mince parsley ( I used cilantro)
Kosher salt
4 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups tender romaine leaves

Whisk spices, garlic, herbs, and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk in vinegar and olive oil. 
Toss dressing with greens and serve. 
**Optional:  Add croutons or toasted pine nuts or walnuts to the salad. 

Here's the Spanish red that we had with our meal tonight.  Seifert and Jones are having a free tasting of Spanish reds this Saturday at 2:00pm with a local importer.  Here's the link to access more information on the events hosted by my favorite wine merchant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumbers are in season. Here's what's cookin'.

Summer is a tough time to post.  The kids are at my heels and carving out time to write is a challenge.  Therefore I'm going to try something new.  
I'm going to try writing shorter but more frequent posts and using the Blogger App on my phone.  I've become a bit lazy and am relying too much on my Facebook page.   I need to direct more traffic here, so here goes nothin. 

My cucumbers are actually going nuts right now.  I got my starts at Joes Gardens and that's just the additional time they needed to get growing.  Yesterday I picked three big boys that are at least 12 inches long.
They are English cucumbers and are my favorite.  So now what?  One if the biggest problems with home gardening is what to do with all the produce you have outside your door.  It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem.  Here's where my cookbook and culinary magazine addiction can benefit you. This months recent edition of Food and Wine Magazine had a nice recipe for cold cucumber soup that calls for 2 stinking pounds of cucumbers!!!  Yep, that'll do quite nicely.  My husband Matt is riding his bike today and visiting our favorite local seafood place Vis Seafoods on his way home from work.  He's going to pick up the salmon and I will be making the soup.  
Here's my adaptation of the recipe.  Remember I'm lactose intolerant so I have to modify these things. Have fun, take a look, and leave a comment or question. 

Cold Cucumber Soup
(Adapted from Justin Chapple's Tangy Cucumber Soup)

2 lbs. English cucumbers-halved, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt ( strained or Greek)
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (extra for garnish)
2 tsp. chopped dill
1 tsp. chopped tarragon 
Salt & pepper to taste

This recipe calls for Greek yogurt.  I don't usually have that in my fridge so to compensate I just strain the yogurt that I can digest at home.  
Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and scoop about 2/3 cup of your favorite local plain yogurt into it. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together with kitchen string, attach to a wooden spoon and hang over a bowl to catch the excess liquid (the whey). Strain the yogurt for at least an hour.  The longer you strain it, the thicker the yogurt. 
Peel, seed and chop 2lbs of cucumbers. For me this was about 2 large English cucumbers. 
In a blender or food processor purée the cucumbers, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill, and tarragon. When blending gradually add in the olive oil until smooth and silky.  Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled (at least 30 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste. 
Serve in chilled bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with extra dill. 

A few notes. This soup can easily be used as a sauce for fish.  Today I served it as a side of soup to go with some local salmon.  Serve with a dry wwhite or dry Rose wine.  We've been enjoying some fantastic Spanish varietals this year. 
Not sure where to go for wind in Bellingham?  I highly recommend Seifert and Jones. It's my favorite place in town to get a quality wine.  

Here's some pics for us visual folks. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Surpise! Salmon Cakes For Dinner It is.

Salmon Cakes!

Recently I stumbled upon a new food blog.  It's  Oh goodness this is a fun cooking blog.  Lately it's where I go when I extra ingredients and have no idea what to make for dinner.  The recipes are always good, low calorie, easy to prepare, and never boring.  When I need inspiration or want to try something new this is where I go.  SmittenKitchen is nice too but sometimes the recipes can be a bit daunting.  My boys are involved in taekwondo right now on Tues. and Thurs. and some days I don't have time for extra steps and additional prep. 

Anyway, last week I was prepared to make salmon kebabs.  I had extra salmon leftover from my CSA box and I mistakenly assumed it was cubed.   I had everything ready and was all set to stick my salmon onto my skewers when I took the salmon out of the package and realized that the pieces were WAY too small.  It was ground salmon.  Hmmmmm.  Time to switch gears.  In the past I would have been really upset but lately I've been trying approach life with less intensity.  So I looked in my pantry and fridge and tried to find some staples and figure out a solution. Not only did I find a solution but I also found a new recipe. 

Salmon Cakes!!! 

Now I've made crab cakes before but never salmon cakes.  Despite growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I didn't grow up eating a lot of fish, let alone salmon.  Spontaneously cooking with fish requires me to be a bit courageous.  I decided I was going to be brave and it totally paid off.  These salmon cakes are really good, easy to put together, and require only about 15 minutes in the fridge to chill.  From beginning to end, they took me about 45 minutes to prepare.  That includes time spent in the refrigerator.   Not bad for a weeknight meal. 

Here's my recipe.  Experiment with the ingredients and post your changes right here.  I love getting new ideas. 

Salmon Cakes

  • 1 lb. ground or chopped salmon (no bones)
  • 1/4 cup panko (keep a bit extra for pan frying
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 1/2 red onion (finely diced)
  • 3 fresh basil leaves (finely minced)
  • 1 tbsp. salted capers (rinsed)
  • 1 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (first cold pressed)
Place all ingredients into a dish or bowl and combine with impeccably clean hands. 
Try to make sure that all the ingredients are fully distributed but don't over mix.  If the salmon mixture is too wet then add more panko.  Take small handfuls of salmon mixture and roll into balls.  Flatten the balls into patties, place onto a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. 

When salmon patties are thoroughly chilled heat up the olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Sprinkle each patty with a bit more panko.  Then place each salmon cake into the hot olive oil, and brown on each side.  This takes about 2-3 minutes per side.  Let the salmon cakes rest on a wire rack until ready to serve.
Mix it up!
Chill in the fridge.
Get frying.
Both sides!
Cook on the rack.
Serve and enjoy.

I served my salmon cakes over toasted rye bread and fresh salad greens.  I also topped them with additional basil.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hooray! Hooray for cassoulet!

Carcassone at night. 
I went to a blog class last year and the instructor told all of us never to offer excuses for not blogging.  Since then I have followed that advice.  Life is busy for everyone.  I would love to blog every day or week but with two kids, a husband, a garden and a house to run, I don't always get what I want.  However, I have noticed that it's been a long time since I've last posted.  January 2014 being my last one.  I won't offer an apology but I will give a reason to explain my absence.  Two reasons actually. 
The first is that I have been spending more time on Facebook.  I opened up a Facebook page to go with this site and I must say that I love updating that.  It's easy to post pictures and let you all know how I like to live locally.  A post actually takes a significant amount of time to put together and Facebook is much more accommodating.  If you want to see some of my Facebook updates, feel free to like my page.  Here's the link.
The second reason I haven't been so frequent in my blogging posts is that I just finished a very nice trip to France/Spain with my family.  My husband and I took our two boys (5 and 8 years old) without checked luggage and it really required a lot of planning.  While my husband put together the actual trip, I had to do all the day-to-day prep. that usually goes unnoticed but prevents meltdowns and such.  It was a fantastic problem to have but it required a lot of attention. 
So, now that we're back I wanted to recreate one of the best meals we had while in Carcassonne, France and I wanted to use as many local ingredients as possible.  For those of you who aren't familiar, Carcassonne is a small medieval town in the south of France.  It's one of the few completely walled cities left in Europe and resides in the Languedoc region on France's Mediterranean coastline.  The city has a long and violent history, but they are one of the three cities in the Languedoc that are known for making cassoulet. 
What is cassoulet, you say?  Basically it's a rich bean stew that consists of duck confit, sausages (usually pork), and another meat.  Here's a Wikipedia link that does a pretty good job describing it.
You also might be asking yourself what duck confit is.  Duck confit is duck that is slowly cooked in its own fat.  Before the days of refrigeration this is how meat was preserved, especially if salt was in short supply.  Duck confit is a laborious process and I felt that cassoulet was daunting enough.  Therefore I decided to purchase my duck confit from the Community Food Co-Op.  It wasn't as expensive as I thought because I only bought two legs.  One for Matt (my husband) and one for me.  The kids could taste some but I pretty much assumed they would eat the sausage.  Duck is pretty rich stuff and my kids will taste but not eat a lot of it.  Yay!!!  More duck for me.  Ummmm, and Matt too.  
Before I begin telling you how I made this cassoulet I want to stress that there are numerous versions of this dish.  The ingredients vary greatly but the process is really what counts here.  Also, cassoulet is not something you want to attempt on a weeknight.  It takes a long time.  Jacques Pepin has a recipe (that I haven't tried) for 30 minute cassoulet but in general most "shortened" versions take at least a day.  Depending on how much you want to do by hand, it can take up to 7 days!!  My recipe only took one day.  Therefore, the decision to make this "shortened" version of cassoulet rests on a few key points.
  1. I'm not a professional chef.
    I'm a woman who likes to cook at home.  I have a great passion for food but I am not formally trained in any way.  Every thing I have learned has come from experience.  I do not have the knowledge (yet) to make my own sausage and I don't have the guts (yet) to make my own duck/goose confit. 
  2. I'm a busy mom and don't have 3-7 days to dedicate to food.
    As much as I love food, the idea of spending that much time on one dish gives me the twitches. 
  3. I am lucky enough to live in a town where I can buy good quality products from local businesses who are more than happy to financially benefit from my lack of know-how and laziness. 
    I don't need to do everything myself and if I can support a local business in the process then I consider it a win-win.  For this dish my holy trinity for purchasing local ingredients is the Community Food Co-Op, Mediterranean Specialties, and the Bellingham Farmer's Market.

Here's the recipe I used to make this dish.  Feel free to cut/copy/and paste it and then print it out.  I'm still working on a printer friendly option for blogger.  (If any other fellow bloggers have some suggestions I'd be open to them hearing them.)  This recipe was inspired by Chef John from but my recipe doesn't utilize his crust.  Most chefs will agree that the bread crust is an essential component to a cassoulet but I have to disagree a bit.  Why?  Well, my husband and I sampled two different cassoulets at  two different restaurants and both did not include a crust.  I figured that if two chefs in Carcassonne didn't feel that the crust was necessary then that was good enough for me. 

Here's a few pictures for us visual folks to help get you started. 

Lay out your beans on a tray and pick out any stones or icky looking beans.

Rinse your beans before you soak them.

Get your meat ready. 
Take a look at that ham shank!  It's a whopper compared to the duck confit.  Not to worry what the duck lacks in size it makes up for in taste. 

Cook your ham shank with your beans.

Remove your beans to a separate bowl.  Keep shank and the cooking liquid (not shown).
Remember at this point it's just pork and beans.

Brown the meat in the super tasty rendered pork fat.

Remove the meat and sauté those veggies in that yummy fat.

Mix the veggies into your bowl of beans.

Layer!  Beans + meat + beans = cassoulet.

Cover with the bean cooking liquid.

Cassoulet for the kids.

Cassoulet fore the adults. 

Jenn's Cassoulet 
inspired by Chef John of

Ingredients: (links provided for locally purchased or locally made ingredients)
For the rest of the dish:
  • 1/2 lb. fresh side pork or pancetta or bacon 
  • 1 lb. pork sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 legs of duck confit
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 14 oz. can of roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Organics)
  • 1 tsp. herb de Provence
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
The process:

First get started with the beans. 
Soak beans overnight and drain.  Place beans in a heavy dutch oven with ham shank, bay leaf, garlic, onion, whole clove, rosemary, thyme, chicken stock, and water.  Bring everything to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer beans for about 1 hour. 
**Please note that my beans only took 30 minutes.  I was shocked!  Please taste your beans every 20-30 minutes to prevent overdone and mushy beans.  The beans should be firm but soft in the middle.  Older beans can take up to 3 hours.  Be prepared for your beans to take forever.  If they're done sooner it's fine.
After beans are fully cooked, strain, reserve cooking liquid and remove the ham shank.  You can throw away the onion, clove, garlic and such, but SAVE the liquid and ham.  You'll need them later.
At this point you should have a bowl full of bean cooking liquid, a ham shank on a cutting board and another bowl full of beans.  Cover everything to prevent evaporation of liquid which leads to the beans/ham drying out.

Now, that the beans are done let's get started on the next part of the dish.
In the same heavy dutch oven you used for the beans brown the side pork or bacon.  You want to render the fat.  Once browned put the leftover bits into the beans.  Then brown the duck confit and sausage in the rendered pork fat.  Once browned take the duck and sausage out and place onto a plate.  Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté for10 minutes.  Add the canned tomatoes, herb de Provence, salt, pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.  Take the vegetables and mix them into your bowl of beans.

Now the layering begins.  Put half of the bean mixture on the bottom of your dutch oven.  Then place your browned duck, sausages (and their reserved juices that gather on the plate) and ham shank on top of the beans.  Cover with the remaining bean mixture and try not to worry that the beans don't cover the entire ham shank.  It's fine. 

Finally, pour the bean cooking liquid over everything and make sure that the beans are just barely covered.  Keep the leftover cooking liquid to add if your beans are getting to starchy later on.
Put the entire pot into the oven at 350° for 30 minutes.  Check to see if you need to add more liquid.  Some beans are starchier than others.  I didn't need to add more liquid.  I did need to remove a bit though.  Put cassoulet (you can call it that now) back into the oven for 20 more minutes.  Check starch levels again.  You should notice that a subtle starchy crust from the beans is forming.  That's what you want to see.  If you don't see it then take out more liquid. 

Increase the oven temperature to 375° and cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes. 
When finished remove all the meat onto the cutting board.  Cut the ham off of the shank and remove any sinew or fat. 
To serve ladle beans into a shallow bowl and place meat on top.  Enjoy! 

I highly recommend having this meal with a full bodied red wine.  I was lucky enough to find a French wine from Minervois a region just outside of Carcassonne.