Monday, December 1, 2008

black eyed pea and turkey cassoulet

Last night, when I was making dinner, I was thinking about my former life as a chef. I sometimes miss the work but I never actually miss the job. I fear that perhaps that only makes sense to me.

There is a certain honestly that is found in any sort of hands-on labor that I enjoy immensely. I actually like cleaning my house (when I feel well) and I think that it is the fact that the work is so evident. There is really no subjectivity about it at all -- a thing is dirty, it needs to be cleaned and it's just me and the dirt, you know? No body pushes me around. I either do it or I don't. I feel much the same about cooking. So, I miss cooking professionally but I do not miss being a chef. True, I can cook at home but I lack the full arsenal of truffle oil and beef tenderloin that I had as a professional. My creativity at home is only limited by my grocery budget and that seems to be getting ever tighter!

I was a pretty good chef. My real weakness was making new dishes. My cooking philosophy is truly, there is nothing new under the sun. If the goal was to recreate a classic, (preferably French) dish, I could usually pull that off flawlessly and with little effort. Where I always got tripped up was making things that were called a classical dish name but was not that dish. Like... Osso Bucco made with something other than veal shank like lamb or even chicken! I just never really "got it" when it came to that type of cooking.

So, last night when I made this dish and called it cassoulet, I was feeling a little challenged. The little French chef that lives in my head was screaming (in a heavy, French accent of course), "Cassoulet is made with white beans, duck, pork, and sausage, not black eye peas and turkey!" I made it anyway. It was wonderful. Rich, savory, smoky, and lovely. Sigh.

As usual, I cannot take credit for thinking this up all on my own. Cooking Light ran a story on Reveillon - a 19th century Christmas-meal tradition among French Creoles that is still around in New Orleans. Part of the menu was a duck and black eyed pea cassoulet. I did not use this recipe, really just the inspiration of the black eyed peas standing in for the white beans.

Here is my recipe-

Turkey and black eyed pea cassoulet

4 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 pound of smoked sausage, cut in half and then sliced
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
32 ounces of frozen black eyed peas
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
2 cups of shredded left over Thanksgiving turkey meat
1 cup of bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of olive oil

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Remove the bacon reserving all of the rendered bacon drippings. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often until browned. Remove the sausage again reserving the drippings. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, salt, thyme and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Cook this, stirring often until it is all tender - about 10 minutes. It should smell really good in your kitchen now!! Add the broth and peas. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the peas are tender and the mixture is quit thick. Using a potato masher or fork, mash some of the peas. Add the sausage and turkey, stirring gently. Bring this to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through and the mixture is really thick. Top with the bread crumbs, the remaining parsley and then drizzle with the olive oil. Place uncovered under a preheated broiler to brown the bread crumbs. Once it is browned, top with the bacon pieces. Let this stand for about 5 minutes and then serve. Serve with a citrus dressed salad, rice with a toasted pecans and bread. I served mine with biscuits since we did not have any good bread, which was really good, too.


Anonymous said...

Do you think I could put browned chicken thighs in it and cook longer?

Kelly said...

Yes, I do! I think that would be wonderful.