Kitchen Knightmares: Quick (Down Home) Cassoulet

Today on Alphabet City: JP returns to Kitchen Knightmares cooking Quick “Down Home” Cassoulet courtesy of Mark Bittman

As life settled back into a routine in the New Year, it was time for me to live up to my commitment and get back into Wednesday cooking mode for Chef.  So last night marked my return to the Kitchen Knightmares arena.

My new special advisor in this endeavor is Mark Bittman.  I’ve always liked Mark’s take on food (and not just because his daughter turned up on the 4th of July with a friend of mine at our summer rental in Provincetown a couple of years ago).  His “Minimalist” approach chronicled weekly in the New York Times always makes sense to me, sort of a more approachable Michael Pollan.

His cookbook Kitchen Express is right up my alley—recipes arranged seasonally so you are using the best ingredients.  Even better, Mark wants cooking to be uncomplicated—so there are no exact measurements in the recipes, and each one should take under 20 minutes.

Quick (Down Home) Cassoulet (“down home” is my addition—you’ll see why)

As Mark explains, “This version is far from strictly traditional, but it maintains the spirit of the original and takes less than 20 minutes.”

Here was my process: sautéed some chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Then I added some sliced turkey sausage (leaner than traditional).  After a couple of minutes I added a drained can of blacked eye peas (my Southern touch which I’m sure would have the French rolling their eyes; you can use any white beans you want, but these peas are a Texas New Year’s tradition so I figured I’d throw ’em in), a drained can of butter beans, a can of crushed tomatoes.  Throw in a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and salt and pepper.  It simmered for a little while to cook the vegetables.  And then I served with a sprinkling of bread crumbs.  See how easy that is to follow?  Hard to go wrong.

Only downside to Mark’s recipes is there is no nutritional information—that comes from Mark’s belief that if you generally eat correctly, you don’t need to watch that stuff.  But since Chef and I are trying to get back on the weight-loss wagon, I had to total up the calories myself.  Good news: one serving is about 300 calories!

Result?  At Judge’s Table, Chef agreed it was delicious, and that it warmed the tummy in the dead cold of winter.

I’ll invite Mark back to be my cooking coach anytime.

Note: Live on the Upper West Side?  Make sure to stop by the Whole Foods on 97th and Columbus on Wednesday nights around 6pm and check out Chef’s “tasting night.”

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