Ahh, fall

I love fall – once I get past my dread at the advancing darkness/cold/snow thing, that is.  More precisely, I love fall cooking.  There’s a softness, a delicious,warm fillingness that comes from slow-cooked braises, soups and roasted root veggies that I love and crave all year round. And from a laziness perspective  – a comfy perch from which I view many things – it’s certainly easier: fewer fresh salad-y types of meals equals less mincing and julienning and vinaigrette making.  I do love the bounty of summer veggies in all their yummy crunchy barely-cooked but well-dressed glory, but when I wave goodbye to that last meal of tomatoes, corn, basil and bread, I’m more than happy to welcome that first Beef Bourguignon or pot pie.  (Mmmmmm, pot pie.)

Or Cassoulet.  I love traditional cassoulet, full of meat and happiness.  But I also love lighter, modern versions.  I Primed a copy of Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, and have made his now basically famous veggie-heavy cassoulet twice this week.  (For some reason my brain insists on calling it Cassoulet with Many Vegetables, like something you’d see on a weirdly written Chinese restaurant menu.)  It appeals to me on several levels; first because it’s delicious, with that silky sinful mouthfeel you want in your slow-cooked goodies, and second because it, like all the recipes in the book, is really more of a jumping-off point than a fixed recipe.  You can use whatever veggies you have on hand, really, and lots of different liquids and/or meats.    Most of the dishes that I make for clients are loose frameworks also, that can take on vastly different forms at different times depending on what’s fresh, what’s available, and what I didn’t forget.   That approach to cooking is what makes it fun, and why personal cheffing is such a kick, since all clients are different, and you can make the same dish three times in a week and have a really different final result each time. Tuesday’s Cassoulet had turkey sausage, b squash, cauliflower and chicken stock; Thursday’s had chicken thighs, zucchini, cabbage and red wine.  Both delicious 🙂  Enjoy.

Cassoulet with Many Vegetables (a la Bittman)
Serves 4-8

2 tbs olive oil
1 pound Italian sausages, bone-in pork chops, confit duck legs, fresh duck breasts or a combination (or chicken thighs, or turkey sausage, or basically whatever you have on hand)
1 tbs minced garlic
2 leeks or 2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, 1″ pieces
2 celery stalks, 1/2″ pcs
2 zucchini, or 1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1/2″ pcs (or squash or cauliflower or what have you)
4 cups chopped tomatoes (couple of cans)
1/4 chopped parsley (I omitted)
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
2 bay leaves
4 cups cooked or canned white beans, drained, liquid reserved (I didn’t drain and just poured one large can of beans & juice in)
2 cups stock, dry red wine, bean-cooking liquid, or water, as needed

Heat oil in large pot over med high heat. A minute later, add the meat and cook, turning as needed, until pieces are deeply browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes.  Remove, drain all but 2 tbs of fat.

Reduce heat to medium and add veggies; sprinkle with S&P and cook 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, meat, and herbs and bring to boil. Add beans and return to boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat, simmer about 20 minutes, adding more liquid as needed if mixture gets too thick.

If using meat on the bone, fish it out and remove it from the bone; and discard bay leaves.  Chop meat into chunks and return to pot; warm through and taste to adjust seasoning.

Chefchick Says: get yourself an Amazon Prime membership.  Personal chefs, deduct the cost as a business expense; you’ll be glad you spent the $79 a year when you can replace lost instant-read thermometers, order new cookbooks, and get sets of Pyrex for a new client in 2 days with no shipping costs, and no running around to stores.  (Having ChefBaby has made me really dislike having to go in to actual stores.)

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