Saturday, May 14, 2011

Family recipes 3: Beatrice's stuffed cabbage and cassoulet

These wonderful winter rib-stickers are from the kitchen of my sister Beatrice, who lives in a big, beautiful old house called La Colombelle which she's restored herself with great taste and imagination, in a lovely little village in the south-western French countryside, near Castelnaudary. The very recent photo, above, shows the courtyard at her place, with the table laid for a meal. She also runs a 'gite' or self-catering accomodation in part of the house and can also on occasion be persuaded, as an extra, to make some of these delicious dishes for guests!(see http://http// )
And now here are two of her signature dishes:

Chou farci(stuffed cabbage)
First, in a tureen or casserole dish I blanch one whole(smallish) green cabbage.
Then I prepare the stuffing:
Mix sausage mince(or minced pork), chopped onion, garlic, herbs(thyme, sage, parsley are good), plus one egg to bind it together.
I unpeel each blanched cabbage leaf and put a bit of stuffing on it, then fold back to form a parcel.Then I put the parcels back in the casserole dish, wet the whole thing up with coconut milk(this takes away a too-strong 'cabbagey' taste and makes the dish particularly unctuous), and add sliced carrots and potatoes to the dish. The whole is simmered, covered, on the stove for about 1 hour. I serve two little parcels per person--this is a fantastic dish in winter!

Next is my 'cassoulet façon Béa '
(Note from Sophie: Cassoulet is a famous local peasant dish, of which there are many variants. Bea's version, which is simple to prepare and saves a lot of time, achieved national fame in France recently when her youngest son Alexis, a talented chef, featured with great success on the TV cooking show Top Chef, and cited it several times as one of the dishes that inspired him to take up cooking for a living! I will feature one of Alexis' recipes in a future post.)
The day before you want to cook the cassoulet, soak some white haricot beans. The next day, melt some duck fat in a tureen, add chopped onions, leeks, carrots. Add the beans, some crushed garlic, herbs(thyme, rosemary, parsley or variants), then cover with stock--chicken is best and cook till beans are tender. Half-way through the cooking of the beans, add some duck thighs, some pork belly, and some white wine. Just before the beans are completely tender, take them off the stove, put in an ovenproof dish(earthenware is best),add some sausage(Toulouse sausage is ideal, if you can't get that, try Italian sausage),add grilled 'pain de campagne' or breadcrumbs on top and put in oven to go golden. There needs to be a good amount of juice(from the cooking) in the dish and for it to be perfect I usually break the bread crust several times and then let it reform. But make sure the beans do not 'mash' at all!
Take out when golden and bubbling. Serve with a good red wine!
Bon appetit!

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