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RBR Tailgating: A Cassoulet of Sorts

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“Cassoulet is not really a recipe. It’s a way of arguing among neighboring villages of Gascony.” - Andre Daguin

To be clear, this is not beanie weenies. I was worried that a dish with beans and pork might conjure for some the specter of A-Day losers commiserating over a not quite warm paper plate full of unseasoned elementary school lunch room fare while their teammates dine on steak. I was worried that some might see this as a jinx or pox on the week’s game.

So once more, I saved this recipe that is definitely not beanie weenies for the bye week where there is no jinx ready game waiting even though there is no such thing as a jinx. That should satisfy even the most superstitious, the ones who believe that wearing lucky socks or sitting in the same chair as last week’s win rather than the sweat expended at practice or focus maintained in the film room is what brings home trophies, among you.

What this is is what happens when nostalgia and a steady increase in the availability of goods and services over the last few centuries gets people fiddling with comfort food. Originally, cassoulet was a catch all with beans and pork - a convenient way to get rid of leftovers in one pot. Then the chefs got to gentrifying.

Sushi used to be crummy street food. All manner of honored Italian pasta sauces got their start as a way to stretch meat supply. We are seeing it happen now with the rise of the gourmet pub burger and the North Atlantic Fresh Caught Cod in a Local Artisan Craft Ale Batter with House Made Chips and a Boodle’s Gin Tartar.

Refined cassoulet typically has beans with pork, sausage, lamb, and duck. Mine falls short. If I had my druthers I’d have a confit of duck leg in the mix, but none were available. I’m sure to draw the ire of the Academie Universelle du Cassoulet (which is a real thing.)

This is a very hardy one pot meal and one that can be happily grazed on for a full day of “other” games. As Julia Childs put it “Cassoulet, that best of bean feasts, is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba.”

Cassoulet

- lamb chops, rack or loin, at least 1 per person

- sausage, at least one per person

- 4 oz. pancetta, diced

- ½ yellow onion, diced

- 2 15.5 oz. cans great northern beans

- 1 cup red wine, more if needed

- 2 tsp. herbs de Provence

- 1 tsp. corn starch or as needed

- fresh thyme

- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter plus 1 pat per lamb chop

- 1 shallot, minced

- salt and pepper

I used spicy Italian sausages which likely further enraged the AUC which would prefer I use a Toulouse style sausage or a keilbasa, but they were readily available and reliably delicious. Cook yours however you like.

I like to simmer them in water for 20 minutes or so if I’m going to submerge them in hot liquid for an appreciable length of time. I prefer this way to grilled even though I’m missing out on smokey flavors. My issue with grilling sausages for this dish is that I want as much of their natural juices in my finished product and casings can stick to and tear on a grill surface.

That’s not as likely if you follow my lead and put them in a large skillet and cover them ¾ of the way up with water, turn the heat on high, and cover with a top set slightly off center so steam escapes. After 20 minutes or when the water has practically all boiled off, remove the sausages and set aside.

No matter how you cooked the sausages, let them cool.

In a Dutch oven or similar dish, melt the tbsp. of butter and fry the diced pancetta.

Add the onion.

When the onion starts to become translucent add one can of beans with its liquor. Open the other can, drain the liquor, and add only the beans.

I added a little white wine which is why there is so much liquid in the picture but I quickly decided I wanted a darker color and switched to red. So add the cup of red wine and all of the herbs de Provence.

Slice the cooled sausages in half. At room temperature the juices won’t run all over your cutting board which means there will be more to flavor the bean stew.

Add them to the stew, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Liberally salt the lamb.

Get an oven safe skillet, iron if you have it, ragingly hot and add the rest of the butter along with a few sprigs of thyme and the shallot. Sear the lamb in the skillet, spooning melted butter over the chops as you go.

Once browned move the chops, skillet and all to an oven preheated to 400˚ and cook to your satisfaction. I like most meats medium rare but I feel like lamb can be fibrous at that temp. I pull it at an internal temperature of 135˚ (medium.) The internet is full of resources should you want to know what temps medium rare, medium well, and burnt are.

Let the chops rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, salt and pepper the stew to taste. If desired, thicken the liquid with cornstarch.

Now you have fancy French peasant food. Ladle some pork and beans that are definitely not beanie weenies into a bowl, add a sausage and a chop, and serve with some crusty bread.

In conference GA v. FLA looks fun. So does Vandy v. MSU for opposite reasons. A&M at USC and TN at AR should both be competitive. Out of conference there is the Sunshine-less Clemson v. ND and Lia will go up against Penn State. Other than that it’s a pretty dull week.

Put the tv (television) on, eat too much, and take a nap. That’s my plan.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.