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Roasted Root Vegetable Cassoulet

November 29, 2011
By Wendy Monro , The Journal

I had an amazing Thanksgiving with my family in California. I don't know how my mom keeps out doing herself every year. This year, she cooked everything without my help for twenty-five people. She cooked a ham and a turkey with all of the fixings. She also prepared a tofurkey with vegetarian gravy and tons of vegetarian dishes as well. Over the years our vegetarian section of the family has grown by quite a few members. My mom aims to please everyone who comes to her place for Thanksgiving and she succeeds every time. It was truly a feast.

I can't believe Thanksgiving just finished. Wow! Time really does fly. I know, I say that every year. It never ceases to amaze me. Christmas is right around the corner. I am really looking forward to coming to Lake Hanska. I hope it snows a ton by mid-December. I hope it snows and snows, so everything is super white and beautiful. Then, I wish we would be blessed with sunshine while we drive all of the way from Las Vegas to Hanska. Is that too much to ask? Nahh.

Well, our family just finished the short and easy drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (five hours) and I had to come up with something to make for our dinner once we settled in. Of course, we had nothing to eat in the house since we were gone for the past four days. I left everyone at home to rest and headed to the store on my own. I didn't mind, since the grocery store is one of my favorite places to be (along with sitting in a warm bubble bath, crawling into my cozy bed after my heating blanket has been on for thirty minutes, and/or nestled under one of Claud's arms on the couch). So, I was happy to go.

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Roasted root vegetable cassoulet with vegetarian sausage.

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make. I considered remaking an appetizer I made for Thanksgiving at my mom's house. It was so easy and tasty. All I did was blend canellini beans with sauted onions and garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Then, I baked it in the oven with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese on top to make a crust. I served it with pita chips. It was pretty tasty. I really needed to make a meal for my family. This was an appetizer, not a meal. I threw the beans in the cart anyway, just in case.

Then, I walked through the vegetable section. I thought I should try to do something with root vegetables. Root vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins, phytonutrients, complex carbohydrates and fiber. They are less expensive than most other vegetables and can be stored for a long time in the refrigerator. I threw a bunch into my cart. I kept shopping while I tried to come up with an entire meal with roasted root vegetables. Then, as I entered the meat section, I remembered Claud asking me to cook and write about meat again. That's when it came to meI would make cassoulet two ways. One cassoulet would incorporate the canellini beans, sausage, chicken, and root vegetables. The other one would use canellini beans, vegetarian sausage, and root vegetables. This should satisfy my entire family. Excited, I threw tons of herbs into my cart too.

I headed home with my loot and got to work. First, I had to make some homemade vegetable broth. No problem, I keep all of my vegetable trimmings in the freezer for this purpose. I got that simmering on the stove and roasted the root vegetables. It was quite a project and my kitchen was very messy when it was all finished. The kitchen smelled heavenly with all of those herbs stewing. Daphne, Claud and I grabbed a huge scoop and sat down to eat. Jack walked in and decided he didn't like the look or smell of it and he wouldn't be eating any dinner tonight. Three out of four isn't bad.

Fact Box

Roasted Root Vegetable Cassoulet:

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Serves: 8 servings

4 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

2 yellow onions, sliced thick

1 large celeriac (celery root), peeled and chopped into thick cubes

2 parsnips, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 turnip, peeled, and cut into I inch chunks

1 rutabaga, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried red chili

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, divided

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 28 ounce can stewed tomatoes, crush with hands

2 cans canellini beans, rinsed

5 cups homemade vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh sage

1/2 pound chicken breasts or thighs (or vegetarian sausage)

1/2 pound Andalusia sausage (or vegetarian sausage)

2 cups bread crumbs

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, spread out all of the root vegetables. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Coat the vegetables with the oil. Roast for 35 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chili peppers and one sprig of rosemary. Add the tomato paste and the stewed tomatoes. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Set aside.

In a pot, pour in the beans and the vegetable stock. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and sage. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While this simmers, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Braise the chicken and sausage (or the vegetarian sausage, if you are using this). Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Italian parsley, with one teaspoon of olive oil. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, layer the tomato sauce, vegetables, beans, and meat (or non-meat sausage). Keep layering until you reach the top. Then, top with the bread crumb mixture. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. If the top doesn't brown, place under the broiler on high for the last three minutes.

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