December 16, 2013
Quick Pork Cassoulet
Kendall-Jackson 2011 Vintner's Reserve Riesling
Quick Pork Cassoulet from America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
Growing up, my favorite canned soup was Campbell's Bean with Bacon. I am not as fond of it now as I used to be, both the soup and I have changed. Nonetheless, I have fond memories of the soup and so I am on a quest for a good homemade bean soup recipe. With some bread and wine it makes a comforting and satisfying cool weather meal, an earthy, hearty combination of beans and meat. The best recipe I've found is not really a soup (though the line between soups and stews is blurry) but rather something based on the classic French dish, Cassoulet. The original French dish requires more work than is practical for the home kitchen but fortunately there are some easier versions which are inspired by the original, if not totally faithful. (I would like to try Cassoulet in a restaurant some time to see what the original is like.)
This Sunday I tried a third recipe, a third version of Cassoulet. All three have led to good results and I can recommend any of them, though my favorite was the original recipe I tried from Cook's Illustrated which starts with dry beans, rather than canned, and takes more time and effort than the two "quick" recipes I have used. The other was from Food Wishes.
Today's recipe created the most soup-like cassoulet with a thinner broth than the others which used bread to soak up the liquid and make a thicker dish. It was also the fastest recipe taking me about an hour from start to finish. I tweaked the recipe some, as I often do. I cut the pork tenderloin into smaller, bit-sized pieces rather than the 1-inch chunks in the Cook's Illustrated recipe. This may have led to somewhat tougher pork but it was still reasonably tender and the smaller pieces are easier to eat. Perhaps cooking 1-inch pieces is the way to go as they can be cut into bite-sized pieces after cooking and before being added back into the Cassoulet.
I will continue my search for a good bean soup but I will also be trying out some other cassoulet recipes. I found another version on the America's Test Kitchen web site. I would also like to return to the version that I first tried, but I will make a smaller batch than the first time. I don't know if these experiments will happen this winter, there are so many good recipes and only so many Sunday's, but I'll get around to it eventually.