Cassoulet to Beat the Clock

I love cassoulet but it normally takes hours (sometimes days) to make. Not this one. Many substitutions are possible including making this an all-sausage cassoulet. It’s also a good way to use up leftover lamb, goose, duck, or roast pork from Sunday dinner, though the French (nor I) would ever use beef.

When I was growing up, almost every meal had a meat, poultry or fish entrée, a starch, a vegetable, a salad, even dessert. Today, we don’t have time for such elaborate meals. That’s why one-pot meals are often so attractive.

While traditional one-pot meals, such as stews and hearty soups, take too long, there are a slew of one-pot meals that can be done quickly. One of the keys to fast soups and stews is to use tender cuts of meat or to use poultry or seafood because there isn’t time for tougher cuts like lamb shoulder or beef chuck to soften. A wide sauté pan (or Dutch oven) allows the contents to come to a boil more quickly because the ingredients are spread out evenly over the heating surface. Another concept is layering, meaning first putting in ingredients that need more time to cook, then ingredients that need less time to cook. For example, in my curried vegetable stew, sliced sweet potatoes go in first, then onions and bell peppers, then green beans or the smaller haricot verts. After each addition, you prepare the vegetables for the next addition.

A one-pot meal could also be quickly braised fish or poultry with vegetables. For example, in my steamed cod with vegetables, olive oil, scallions, and tomato form a fast sauce to which zucchini and green beans are added, then topped with cod fillets which are cooked in about 5 minutes. Of course, you can substitute with other fish and vegetables you like or whatever looks good in the market.

Pastas can be one-pot meals too. Cook the pasta and vegetables (like broccoli, broccoli raab, snow or snap peas, and asparagus) together, then toss the cooked and drained pasta and vegetables in the same pot in which they were cooked, along with olive oil, cheese, and seasonings like garlic, freshly cracked black pepper, herbs, or hot pepper flakes.

Perhaps the biggest category of one-pot meals are bean dishes. Chili immediately comes to mind. It could be vegetarian with just the beans (try a combination of two or three) or beans with corn kernels. If you use beef, it has to be a tender cut like sirloin. But that can be expensive and fatty. A cheaper, lower-fat alternative, would be cubed or ground turkey.

One of my favorite bean dishes is cassoulet. Cassoulet in 15 minutes? Sure, if you use canned beans, and smoked meats like turkey kielbasa. However, if you’re watching your sodium, be aware that smoked meats are very salty. That’s why instead of originally using Canadian bacon, I switched from Canadian bacon to fresh pork tenderloin. You could also use some of that leftover roast pork, duck, or lamb from Sunday dinner.

Low-sodium pinto beans also keep the sodium manageable (though this is still not a low-sodium dish, to be sure). You could use other beans such as cannellini (white kidney), navy, or Great Northern beans. Some brands of beans are mushy, so experiment until you find the one you like.

Quick Cassoulet

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • One 12-ounce pork tenderloin
  • 1 small onion, about 4 ounces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 12 ounces turkey kielbasa
  • Two 15-ounce cans low-sodium pinto beans
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot-pepper sauce
  • 1 loaf crusty country French bread

1)Put the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Cut the pork tenderloin in half, lengthwise, then crosswise into chunks about 1 inch wide. Add to the pan, stirring once or twice while you peel and quarter the onion and peel the garlic. Put both in a food processor. Pulse until the onion is coarsely chopped. (Or chop by hand.) Add to the pan and stir. Cut the kielbasa crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Add the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times.

2)Meanwhile, open the canned beans into a colander, rinse, and drain. Chop the thyme leaves, if fresh.

3)Add the beans, thyme (if dried, crush between your fingers), tomato sauce, stock, and salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste to the pan. Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring a few times. Adjust the seasoning as desired. Uncover for the last 2 minutes to let the sauce thicken slightly. Serve in shallow soup plates with the French bread.

Serves 4

Per serving: 875 calories, 65 grams protein, 112 grams carbohydrate, 18 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 1531 mg sodium.

I love cassoulet but it normally takes hours (sometimes days) to make. Not this one. Many substitutions are possible including making this an all-sausage cassoulet. It’s also a good way to use up leftover lamb, goose, duck, or roast pork from Sunday dinner, though the French (nor I) would ever use beef.
When I grew up in the 50s and 60s, almost every meal had a meat, poultry or fish entrée, a starch, a vegetable, a salad, even dessert. Today, we don’t have time for such elaborate meals. That’s why one-pot meals are often so attractive.
While traditional one-pot meals, such as stews and hearty soups, take too long, there are a slew of one-pot meals that can be done quickly. One of the keys to fast soups and stews is to use tender cuts of meat or to use poultry or seafood because there isn’t time for tougher cuts like lamb shoulder or beef chuck to soften. A wide sauté pan (or Dutch oven) allows the contents to come to a boil more quickly because the ingredients are spread out evenly over the heating surface. Another concept is layering, meaning first putting in ingredients that need more time to cook, then ingredients that need less time to cook. For example, in my curried vegetable stew, sliced sweet potatoes go in first, then onions and bell peppers, then green beans or the smaller haricot verts. After each addition, you prepare the vegetables for the next addition.
A one-pot meal could also be quickly braised fish or poultry with vegetables. For example, in my steamed cod with vegetables, olive oil, scallions, and tomato form a fast sauce to which zucchini and green beans are added, then topped with cod fillets which are cooked in about 5 minutes. Of course, you can substitute with other fish and vegetables you like or whatever looks good in the market.
Pastas can be one-pot meals too. Cook the pasta and vegetables (like broccoli, broccoli raab, snow or snap peas, and asparagus) together, then toss the cooked and drained pasta and vegetables in the same pot in which they were cooked, along with olive oil, cheese, and seasonings like garlic, freshly cracked black pepper, herbs, or hot pepper flakes.
Perhaps the biggest category of one-pot meals are bean dishes. Chili immediately comes to mind. It could be vegetarian with just the beans (try a combination of two or three) or beans with corn kernels. If you use beef, it has to be a tender cut like sirloin. But that can be expensive and fatty. A cheaper, lower-fat alternative, would be cubed or ground turkey.
One of my favorite bean dishes is cassoulet. Cassoulet in 15 minutes? Sure, if you use canned beans, and smoked meats like turkey kielbasa. However, if you’re watching your sodium, be aware that smoked meats are very salty. That’s why instead of originally using Canadian bacon, I switched from Canadian bacon to fresh pork tenderloin. You could also use some of that leftover roast pork, duck, or lamb from Sunday dinner.
Low-sodium pinto beans also keep the sodium manageable (though this is still not a low-sodium dish, to be sure). You could use other beans such as cannellini (white kidney), navy, or Great Northern beans. Some brands of beans are mushy, so experiment until you find the one you like.

Quick Cassoulet

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • One 12-ounce pork tenderloin
  • 1 small onion, about 4 ounces
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 12 ounces turkey kielbasa
  • Two 15-ounce cans low-sodium pinto beans
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken
  • and freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot-pepper sauce
  • 1 loaf crusty country French bread

1)Put the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Cut the pork tenderloin in half, lengthwise, then crosswise into chunks about 1 inch wide. Add to the pan, stirring once or twice while you peel and quarter the onion and peel the garlic. Put both in a food processor. Pulse until the onion is coarsely chopped. (Or chop by hand.) Add to the pan and stir. Cut the kielbasa crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Add the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times.
2)Meanwhile, open the canned beans into a colander, rinse, and drain. Chop the thyme leaves, if fresh.
3)Add the beans, thyme (if dried, crush between your fingers), tomato sauce, stock, and salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste to the pan. Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring a few times. Adjust the seasoning as desired. Uncover for the last 2 minutes to let the sauce thicken slightly. Serve in shallow soup plates with the French bread.
Serves 4
Per serving: 875 calories, 65 grams protein, 112 grams carbohydrate, 18 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 1531 mg sodium.

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