Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage and White Beans

How do you prepare for a snow day?  Do you rush to the supermarket for bread, milk and eggs?  Or maybe turn up the heat so the house feels warm and toasty when you come in from shoveling?  In our house we try to take advantage of being snowed in by planning a big, slow-cooked meal that we normally wouldn’t have time to put together on a regular weeknight.

Flashback to Thursday, February 13th… A huge storm was dumping more than a foot of snow on our already snow-covered region, the local kids were all enjoying yet another snow day, and our office was closed.  Knowing that we’d have lots of time to cook, Matt and I decided to try a new stew recipe… something that required a little prep up front and that would be guaranteed to fill the house with the delicious aroma of slow-cooking meat and herbs as it simmered in the crockpot all afternoon.  I found the perfect candidate on MyRecipes.com… smoked sausage cassoulet!

616 Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic french dish that features slow-cooked white beans and meat.  White traditional versions of cassoulet call for duck confit, our snow day version of cassoulet kept things simple.  All of the ingredients were readily available at our local grocery store (on the eve of a snow storm, no less!) and, after being sauteed and slow-cooked all afternoon, they came together to make a delightfully hearty stew with smoky kielbasa, richly flavored white beans, and pork that was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Top that off with some freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley and we had the ultimate culinary reward for all of the shoveling we did on Thursday… and it was a LOT of shoveling: about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow!

February 13 Snow Collage

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage, Pork and White Beans (adapted from MyRecipes.com; serves 5)

You will need…
2-3 slices Bacon, uncooked, cut into approx. 1″ x 1/2″ pieces
12 oz. Smoked Sausage,* halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 cups Chopped Onion
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 – 15 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and divided
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

*Choose a good quality smoked sausage as this will have a major impact on the overall flavor of the dish.  The first time we made this recipe we used Johnsonville Smoked Pork Kielbasa with great results.  The second time we also added in some spicy Andouille sausage (leftover from Jambalaya) and that added even more flavor.

621 Cassoulet

Directions:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped bacon bits, stirring occasionally, until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl and set aside.  Add the smoked sausage to the bacon fat and saute until just starting to brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to another bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Add the bacon, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan, stir well, then bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place 1 can’s worth of drained Great Northern Beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky.  (I found that doing this in a 3 qt pot worked well since the bottom of the pot is flat.)  Add in the remaining can of beans along with the browned sausage and pork and stir well.

Assemble your cassoulet in layers in a crockpot.  First, spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of the crockpot.  Then, in layers, add half the tomato mixture, the remaining bean mixtue, and the remaining tomato mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir the cassoulet before serving and top each individual bowl with grated Parmesan and parsley.  Enjoy!

597 Cassoulet

Do you have any go-to recipes that you love to make on snow days?
Tell me about them in the comments section!  🙂

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Pork and Green Chile Stew

Hello there, blog world!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted but that’s because Matt and I have been in Las Vegas!  We were there all of last week and just got home late last night.  Being home after a long work trip is definitely nice but I do have to admit that I’m already missing Nevada’s weather.  Every afternoon the temps climbed into the mid-sixties and the sky was always perfectly clear and sunny.  Here in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, we’re about to get hit with another “Polar Vortex.”  Once that icy blast of cold air arrives tomorrow it’s going to stay below freezing for four days straight.  Brrr!

Pennsylvania’s winter weather does have its benefits, however.  Take for instance winter comfort food.  I’ll bet a hearty slow-cooked stew tastes WAY better in 20° Pennsylvania than it would in 60° Las Vegas, right? 😉  I could actually really go for a nice stew tonight for dinner.  We don’t have the ingredients on hand though so I’ll satisfy my craving by posting about this Pork and Green Chile Stew that I made last month.  Doesn’t it look yummy?

Pork and Green Chile Stew close up

I found this Slow Cooker Pork and Green Chile Stew recipe at Skinny Taste.  It was extremely easy to make – just cube and brown the pork and simmer all of the ingredients together in a crock pot for 4-5 hours – and the cooked pork was tender and moist.  Matt and I garnished our plates with cilantro, avocado and sour cream and these Mexican flavors added a really nice, bright finishing touch to the stew.  For anyone looking for a good Polar Vortex meal, I highly recommend this!

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Slow-Cooked Pork and Green Chile Stew (Recipe from Skinny Taste)

Stew Ingredients…
2 lbs. Pork Loin roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2″ cubes
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
2 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour (or use a gluten-free flour for G-Free preparation)
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
2 – 4 oz. cans Diced Green Chiles, drained
1-2 Jalapeño Peppers, diced with seeds and stems removed
1 – 10 oz. can Ro*Tel Tomatoes & Diced Green Chiles (not drained)
1/2 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Other Ingredients/Garnishes…
Cooked White or Brown Rice
Sour Cream (omit for Lactose-Free)
Sliced Avocado
Chopped Cilantro

Directions:
Season the cubed pork liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the cubed pork.  Cook the pork for approximately 4 minutes or until browned on all sides.  Gradually stir in the flour and allow the pork to continue browning for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer the browned pork to a crock pot.  Add in the remaining stew ingredients (onion thru garlic powder) and stir gently to combine.  Cover and cook on high power for 4-5 hours or on low power for 8 hours.  When done, stir the mixture and, if needed, add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the stew over rice and garnish with sour cream, avocado and cilantro.

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

It’s snowing out!  We were supposed to get a mere inch of snow today but it appears that the weather guys were WAY off… there’s already over 4 inches of snow out there!!  Here’s the view outside and the radar map… the snow doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon!

December 8th Snow

Cold and snowy weather is the perfect time to enjoy a batch of warm, hearty stew.  I have this pork and green chile stew from Skinny Taste cooking in my crock pot right now and I want to share another yummy concoction that I made a few weeks ago: Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili.  The original, vegetarian version of this recipe came from Pami over at Omnomalicious.  I would have been happy with a meatless stew but Matt likes his meat so I took some liberties with the recipe and added in some ground turkey just for him. 🙂

281 Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

This chili was seriously awesome.  The butternut squash was soft and just the tiniest bit sweet, and it blended really nicely with the black beans, peppers, and onions in a tex-mex-style broth that had just the right amount of kick.  YUM!  I will definitely be making this again soon!!

Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili (adapted from Omnomalicious)

You will need…
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1 Onion, diced
2 Red Bell Peppers, diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, diced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, minced
1 can Diced Tomatoes
2 cans Black Beans, drained
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon Cumin
1 tablespoon Chile Powder
1 tablespoon Mexican Oregano
1 lb. ground Turkey, browned
Salt and Pepper, to taste

272 Butternut Turkey Chili before and after

Directions:
Oh yeah, did I mention that this stew is amazingly easy to make?  Simply combine all of the ingredients in a crock pot then cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours or until the squash has reached your desired consistency.  Season to taste and serve with a slice of freshly baked cornbread!

284 Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

Apple and Sausage Stuffing… Slow Cooker Style!

Stuffing is quite possible my favorite dish at Thanksgiving.  There’s just something about the combination of sausage, apple, bread, and spices that I find absolutely irresistible!  Last year I volunteered to make this classic side dish for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner but there was one problem… we had no oven space! Between the very large turkey, candied yams, green bean casserole, and cornbread there was not an inch of oven space to spare.  Therefore, I decided to make my stuffing in a slow cooker and it turned out great!

Slow Cooker Stuffing

Before I get to the stuffing recipe I want to share a link to another recipe from last year’s Thanksgiving feast that’s been getting a lot of Pinterest love lately… my Candied Yams.  Although these sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows will take up space in your oven for about 25 minutes they are super easy to make and those soft browned marshmallows are so delicious!!  Here’s the recipe.

Candied Yams!

Slow-Cooker Apple and Sausage Stuffing (recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking)

You will need…
12 cups of crusty bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8-12 oz. Italian Sausage, crumbled and browned
3 tablespoons Butter, melted
2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped
2 Yellow Onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups Celery, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Sage
1 bunch Parsley, leaves finely chopped
1 teaspoon Salt plus more, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup Chicken Broth, divided

Some of the stuffing ingredients (there was a lot more bread than pictured!)

Some of the stuffing ingredients (there was a lot more bread than pictured!)

Directions:
Spread the cubed bread onto a few large cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  If desired, do this a day in advance and store the bread cubes in an airtight container overnight.

3-4 hours before you are going to eat, stir the bread cubes, sausage, and melted butter together in a large slow cooker.  My slow cooker was too small so I borrowed my mom’s and split the ingredients into two batches.  Add in the apples, vegetables and seasonings and stir until well mixed.  Pour in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and stir again.  Cover and cook on high for approx. 3 hours or until the bread is browned and the vegetables are tender.  If the stuffing is too dry, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth before serving.  Enjoy!

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!!  🙂

299 Turkey 2012

Pork Carnitas Tacos

Yesterday Matt and I had our Engagement Photo Session with our wonderful wedding photographer, Melissa Hassey. Prior to the shoot Melissa suggested that Matt and I just relax and do what we normally would be doing on a Tuesday afternoon so we embraced that advice and decided to cook a big meal. That’s pretty much a typical weeknight, after all!

Our “Engagement Session Meal” consisted of slow-cooked pork carnitas tacos with lots of yummy sides including jalapeño-lime slaw, avocado crema, and fresh cilantro. We also enjoyed a pitcher of mojito limeade and a few cold beers. Yum!

I can’t wait to see how Melissa’s photos turn out. She actually snapped some of me taking pictures of our food before dinner while Matt waited patiently for me to finish which, once again, is a pretty normal part of our daily life together!  (Update: You can view one of Melissa’s photos of me taking photos of our carnitas here.)

Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas Tacos (serves 2 with LOTS of leftovers for 2-3 lunches each!)

For the Pork…
3 ½ – 4 lbs. Bone-In Pork Butt, fat mostly trimmed off and discarded
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3 teaspoons Mexican Oregano

Corn Tortillas (approx. 3 per person)

Toppings/Sides…
Jalapeño-Lime Slaw
Avocado Crema
Chopped White or Yellow Onion
Fresh Cilantro
Guacamole
Rice (or, better yet, Cilantro-Lime Rice!)
Lime Wedges
Tortilla Chips

Directions:
Generously salt and pepper both sides of the pork butt and place the meat into a slow cooker. Pour the vinegar into the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 8-10 hours.

When pork is finished cooking, remove the pork from the slower cooker and transfer to a large bowl. Pull the pork apart with two forks (or your fingers!) and discard the bone. Stir in the cumin, chile powder, cayenne pepper and more salt and pepper — feel free to adjust the seasonings to taste. Spread the seasoned meat out on a large baking pan and broil in the oven for 5-6 minutes until the edges start to get crispy.

Pour the cooking liquid from the slow cooker into a large measuring cup and then return the broiled pork to the slow cooker. Mix in the oregano, then pour some of the cooking liquid into the slow cooker and stir until the pork absorbs it. Keep adding more liquid and stirring until the pork reaches your desired moisture level. (We skipped this step yesterday and thought that our pork was a little dry but we’ll definitely do it next time!) Discard any leftover liquid and keep the pork warm until you are ready to serve it.

Meanwhile, prepare your toppings and sides as per their respective recipes. Just before serving, heat up the corn tortillas to make them pliable and yummy. Either microwave them in a damp paper towel for approx. 30 seconds or have fun with the grill and grill the tortillas over indirect high heat for 2-3 minutes.

To assemble your pork carnitas taco layer the pork, slaw, crema, onion, and cilantro onto a tortilla and enjoy!

Pork Carnitas Taco

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos

I know that it’s already ocho de Mayo but I’ve been busy at work (and in the garden!) so I’m finally just getting around to posting about our yummy dinner from Saturday night.  Ever since we made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas back in March we’ve been obsessed with La Tortilla Factory’s Green Chile Corn Tortillas and, as a result, we decided to make a meal that utilized these delicious little disks for Cinco de Mayo.  We pulled out our trusty Mexican Everyday cookbook by Rick Bayless and Matt quickly declared that the Pork Tinga Taco recipe sounded like a winner.

After a quick mid-day trip to the grocery store we had the taco filling prepped and in the Crockpot.  Most of the work for this recipe is done during the initial prep stage (6 hours before you eat) which is nice because this means that your dinner is basically sitting their waiting for you once dinnertime rolls around.  In our case we were able to use our “free time” in the evening to enjoy homemade Salsa and Margaritas.  🙂

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Queso Fresco (from Mexican Everyday)
(serves an army in one sitting or serves two for dinner and provides 4-5 leftover lunches throughout the week)

You will need…
1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 lbs. Boneless Pork Shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 – 15 oz. cans Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes, undrained
3 canned Chipotle Chiles en Adobo, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1 tablespoon Adobo canning sauce from Chipotles
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
3 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 1/4 teaspoons Salt
1 Medium White Onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 Mexican Chorizo Sausage, casing removed
16 Corn Tortillas, warmed
1 cup Crumbled Queso Fresco Cheese (substitute feta if you can’t find QF)
2 large Avocados, pitted and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

Directions:
Approximately 6 hours before you plan to eat dinner, line the bottom of your slow cooker with the potatoes and top with an even layer of the pork.  Combine the next seven ingredients (tomatoes thru salt) in a bowl and mix together.  Pour the tomato mixture over the pork and top with the sliced white onion.  Cook on “high” for 6 hours.

Pork Tinga mixture after slow-cooking for 6 hours. After this photo was taken we poured out the excess liquid, reduced it, and stirred it back into the pork to retain the intense flavor.

When your pork is done, brown and crumble the chorizo, drain the excess fat, and stir it into your pork mixture.  Break up the pork into smaller shredded pieces as you stir.  At this point check to see how much liquid is in your slow cooker.  If yours is anything like ours was, it will be way too watery to spoon onto a tortilla.  Rather than throwing away this excess liquid, pour it into a sauce pan and boil rapidly to reduce.  Stir the syrupy reduced liquid back into the meat for maximum flavor.

Warm your tortillas.  An easy shortcut is to sandwich a tortilla between two damp paper towels and microwave it on high for 30-45 seconds.  This makes the tortillas warm, moist and pliable without dirtying a frying pan.  🙂  To build your Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos, place a few spoonfuls of the pork mixture on the warm tortilla and top with queso fresco and avocado.  Enjoy!