This cassoulet is non-traditional in a couple ways but it includes some of the key components of the 'peasant's dish': beans, various meats, and veggies all of which are slow cooked for hours. What you get on the other end is a bowl full of soupy, sweet and savory, meaty, stick-to-your-ribs union of flavors that may or may not be the best bite of beans you’ve ever put in your mouth. There’s a lot going on in every bite. A lot. Also included is a Maple Skillet Cornbread recipe. This was a last minute addition because I had a skillet generously layered with butter and chicken fat from one part of this recipe. The only thing that would have been better would have been biscuits. Biscuits are always better. —Mary Catherine Tee
slices of salt pork (skin removed) or 4-5 pieces thick cut bacon
In an oven proof dutch oven (with a lid), lightly brown salt pork or bacon over medium heat. Remove and place in a bowl.
Add olive oil to dutch oven and add diced onion bell pepper, carrots, and celery stirring to coat in oil. Cook about 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Meanwhile, heat stock in stockpot over medium-high heat. Once steam starts to rise from the liquid, add mustard, maple sugar, and maple syrup to the stock, stirring to incorporate. Add bay leaves to the stock and set aside.
Add garlic and stir to coat with oil. Cook 1-2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add tomato paste, and stir to coat veggies and cook for 1 minute, scraping paste off the bottom of the pan as you go. Add drained beans, thyme, and salt pork/bacon. Stir again. Add warmed stock. Stir again. Place the meaty ham bone/hock in the center of the dutch oven with the beans and liquid. Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, give the beans a stir. Increase heat to 300 and bake for 2 more hours, covered.
After hour 4, remove beans from oven and crank up the heat to 375. In a bowl, combine whole grain mustard and maple sugar. If it’s a little too thick, add a Tbsp. of the cooking liquid from the beans. Set aside.
In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Brown chicken thighs, skin side down, for 4-5 minutes or until golden. Place, skin side up on top of the beans. Spoon/brush mustard-sugar mixture over the chicken thighs. Place back in the oven and cook uncovered for 1 hour.
The chicken fat and butter in the cast iron skillet can’t go to waste! It’s the perfect foundation for skillet cornbread. When there’s about 30 minutes left during the last bake, place the skillet in the oven to heat up for about 10 minutes. It’s okay if the butter/fat get a little brown. If you’re worried about smoke, pour butter/fat into a bowl, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and heat.
Stir together 1 ½ cup corn meal, 1 tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp salt. In a separate bowl, combine 2 eggs, 1 cup maple yogurt and ½ cup milk (if you don’t have maple yogurt, use plain yogurt and add 2 Tbsp. maple syrup). Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Remove skillet from oven. If you removed butter/fat from skillet, add it back to the pan, being sure to coat the bottom. Pour batter into hot pan and bake for 20 minutes.
I’m an old soul. My favorite Saturday morning activity is watching birds on the feeder while drinking strong, black coffee out of my favorite hand-thrown mug. My favorite place to kill time is in antique stores. The less organized the better. I like full-bodied red wines and bitter IPAs. I live for feeling the warmth of sunshine and hearing the stillness of freshly fallen snow. I can thank my stint in Alaska for that. I have salt water in my veins, having grown up in Eastern NC, and (shhh…don’t tell any of my Mainer friends this about me) I prefer blue crab over lobster.