Fighting the Winter with Cassoulet and Schnitzel

Week of February 5 – 11, 2018

Monday:                              Leftover Coq au Vin and Polenta with Sautéed Scallions

hummus as ghanoush

Tuesday:                              Baba Ghanoush with Pita and Crudités

linguine

Wednesday:                      Linguine with Porcini Cream Sauce

Thursday:                            Dinner at Acorn in Shadyside with Billy and Emily

schnitzel platter

Friday:                                  Pork Schnitzel with Crispy Rice, Green Salad

onion panade

Saturday:                             Bagan Cauda with Crudités, Onion Panade, Green Salad

cassoulet bowl

Sunday:                                Black Bean Cassoulet Soup, Toasted Sourdough

This post is going to be unusual in three ways.  First, it’s going out 3 days early.  Beez and I are headed to Naples, Florida for a stay with Mere and Hoddy and we’re not taking a computer, so I have to publish the post today.  Second, it will not contain the usual gossip, sentiment, sports references, personal observations and the other paraphernalia of my writing that you have come to either like or loath, but, at the very least, to expect.  Third, it’s going to contain two recipes for main courses, and that’s because, in a week of outstanding cooking and eating, we found two new dishes that helped us to fight off the winter which has returned to Pittsburgh after a brief respite, like the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio or the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

The Baba Ghanoush (Billy’s nickname for Beez) was very good, a nice, lighter alternative to hummus.  The Linguini with Porcini Cream was a bit decadent – just right for the week before Lent.  And the Onion Panade, a sort of solid onion soup was nice for a light dinner with a salad.  But Jacques Pépin’s Pork Schnitzel and the Silver Palate’s (old but trustworthy) Black Bean Cassoulet Soup were sovereign remedies for dealing with cold February nights.  And the cassoulet may have been the single most flavorful dish we’ve had all winter.  It takes some time to cook- definitely a week-end recipe – but the payback is spectacular.  Don’t forget to charge your guests (after this dinner they will pay willingly).  The schnitzel dish, on the other hand, takes almost no time and is perfect for a quick week-night supper.

cassoulet pot

BLACK BEAN “CASSOULET” SOUP

(Adapted The Silver Palate Good-Times Cookbook* – this dish was a staple at the Silver Palate Food Shop – taste it once and you’ll see why people ordered it again and again)

*By Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Note:  Rosso and Lukins cooked “American,” like the mutt-food in last week’s post, when everyone else was focused on French haute cuisine.  Now everybody cooks this way, mixing and mashing.  The Silver Palate is another set of cookbooks you’ll want to have.

Timing:

Soak the beans overnight, the day before cooking

Cooking takes about 4 ½ hours – most of it untended, but requiring stirring from time to time.

Ingredients:                                   Serves 8 as a main dish, 16 as soup course

2 pounds dried black beans
1 ¼ cups high quality olive oil
3 cups of diced yellow onions (about 2 of the large honkers we get at Giant Eagle)
12 cloves garlic, crushed  (we grated a few cloves of garlic into the dish)
1 meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks (our super market stopped carrying ham hocks, so we substituted two smoked pork chops which we found in the same section)
8 quarts of water
3 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons chopped Italian parley
1 ¾ – 2 lbs. fresh garlic sausage (we used Kielbasa – a Polish garlic sausage)
6 sweet Italian Links and 6 hot Italian Sausage links cut into 1-inc pieces  (we used just 6 hot links and did not cut them up)
1 pound bratwurst cut into 1 inch pieces (we did not cut these up, either)
3 medium-sized red peppers, cored, seeded and diced (we used one large red pepper and 4 Anaheim (red jalapeños)
¼ cup dry sherry
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sour Cream

Prep:

First, make sure that you have a large stock pot or, if you don’t – we didn’t, two large Dutch ovens.  It’s a little tricky to start everything in one pot and then to divide into two and get the proportions right.  But necessity was the mother of invention, here.  Alternately, you could reduce the ingredients (as we did with the sausage), but then it’s difficult to get the liquid proportion right.  We stuck with the 8 quarts of water and that worked.

You remembered to soak the beans last night, right?  You really can’t used canned beans here, because the cooking time is so long and the canned beans, which are already cooked, will evanesce (look it up).

Chop vegetables, measure out spices.  If you’re using the two pots, divide all of this except the onions and garlic into two equal halves.

Get your pots ready – you’ll need one large stockpot or two large Dutch ovens, and one skillet or saute pan.

Cook:

Heat 1 cup of the oil in a large heavy stock pot (or one of those Dutch ovens) over low heat.  When hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are limp – about 10 minutes.

If you’re using two pots, heat the second pot on low while the onions and garlic cook, and when they’re done, spoon about half of the mixture and the oil into the second pot.  From here on out, if you’re using two pots, you’ll want to add half of the ingredients to each pot.  REMEMBER THIS – WE’RE NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN.

Drain and rinse the beans and add to the onions and garlic.  Add the ham bone, ham hocks or 2 smoked chops and 6 quarts of water.

Stir in the cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne and 3 tablespoons of the parsley.

Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered at a slow rolling boil for 2 hours, skimming foam from the top and stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

While the soup is cooking, put the garlic sausage and the remaining 2 quarts of water into a medium-size saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 40 minutes.  Drain, remove the casing and cut into ½-inch slices.

Also, while the soup is cooking, use the remaining ¼ of oil to sauté the Italian sausages and the bratwurst until browned.  You’ll have to do this in batches and it will take about 10 minutes per batch.  This is a lot easier, if you’ve left the sausages whole, as we did.  It’s easier to cut them into pieces after they’re cooked.  We left them whole.

Now – presuming you got the sausages all cooked and ready –  you’re approaching the next to the next to the last lap.

After the two hours of cooking, process 2 cups of the beans until smooth and return to the pot.  (You’ll get some onions with the beans when you scoop them up.)

Continue to cook for 30 minutes

Now add all of the sausages and the peppers and cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the ham bone or hock or chop and shred the meat and return that to the pot.

Stir in the sheer, the sugar and the lemon juice.

Cook over medium until the beans are very soft and the soup is thick – 30-45 more minutes.

Stir in the remaining 5 tablespoons of parsley, taste and adjust the seasonings and ladle the soup into bowls, topping each with a dollop of sour cream.

Serve with a crusty bread or toasted sourdough.

After dinner, lug your full stomach into a room with a fireplace and dream of Spring.

schnitzel plate

PORK SCHNITZEL WITH CRISPY RICE COATING AND BLOODY MARY SAUCE

(adapted from Jacques Pépin, Heart and Soul in the Kitchen)

 

Note:  This dish acquires a delightful spike of flavor from a Bloody Mary sauce, do not skip it.)

Timing:                 10 minutes – 6, if you’ve prepared the pork ahead of time!

Ingredients:                                                       Serves 4

4 boneless pork loin steaks or chops (about 6 ounces each), trimmed of all fat

NOTE:  Giant Eagle had thick 14 ounce chops.  So we carefully sliced each in half before preparing the chops.  It would have taken a long time to pound those 1 ½ inch thick chops into 3/8 thickness and we would have torn the pork in doing so.

1 egg, beaten well (we had to use 2 because we had double the amount of pork) – in a shallow bowl

3 rice cakes (about 1 ounce total), pounded or processed into a coarse powder.  Beez thinks we should use Panko or regular bread crumbs next time.  And, by the way, we have 3 lightly-salted rice cakes that you are welcome to.

½ cup of chicken stock
1/3 cup Bloody Mary mix
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon, butter
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro or chives
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
¾ teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Prep:

Trim pork and pound each chop into 3/8 inch-thick piece – it will be 5 to 6 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.

Cook:

Dip each pork piece into egg mixture and coat well with rice cake crumbs or panko or regular bread crumbs.

Now heat butter and oil in a very large skillet or two medium skillets.  Nonstick works well here.

When the butter and oil are hot, add the pork and sauté for 1 ½ minutes on each side, then transfer to a serving platter.

Combine the drippings into one pan and add the vinegar and cook for about 30 seconds – most of the liquid will have evaporated.  Now add the Bloody Mary mix and cook for 1 ½ minutes, until it thickens a bit.

Pour the sauce over the chops and serve with cilantro or chives sprinkled on top.

This is a great recipe – you can watch the evening news, cook and have a delicious dinner and still have hours for reading or playing or watching a movie – rare leisure for a home cook.

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