It is that special kind of cold that you can only get in Ottawa. It is a damp cold that is somehow biting at the same time. I am always a bit of a furnace and I’m even struggling with the cold right now. Hey! Only three more months of winter. Meh 😦

How to fix my January, cold conundrum? I’ve been hankering for cassoulet since seeing an episode of “Come Dine With Me: Canada” recently. I’ll make the meat version in the next bit too but thought that this veg version sounded great and I got everything in last night’s organic bin for it. Kismet!

I hope that my father-in-law likes this non-traditional twist when he gets back from Florida on the 15th. I have a gorgeous cassoulet, copper pot begging to be used thanks to him.

This recipe is from a fun site where a woman vowed to not eat out for a year (in New York City!). We don’t eat out very often but I know that even for us a whole year would be tough. She however, managed to hold onto her challenge for two years and even wrote a book about it.

Incredible Vegetable Cassoulet
(makes 4-6 servings)

1 cup dry beans (preferably white beans or flageoulets)
1 carrot, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced and keeping the leaves, if any
1 small parsnip, peeled and finely diced
about 1/2 lb butternut, acorn, buttercup, or similar winter squash, chopped to coarse, 1-2″ pieces
about 1/4 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 cup apple cider
1 cup fresh tomato sauce (or substitute 2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
a few sage leaves, chopped (optional)
a sprig rosemary, chopped (optional)
1-2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the roux:
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Pour boiling water over beans to cover by at least 3 inches and cover. Let sit for 1 hour, and drain.

In a large, cast-iron Dutch oven (or “cassoulet”), melt the butter and add the flour. Keep heat on low and stir occasionally for about 30 minutes, until roux is a medium, reddish chestnut-brown.

Add the onion, carrot, celery and parsnip. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, on low heat. Add an extra tablespoon of butter if mixture feels very dry and is sticking too much to the bottom of the pot. Cook until all vegetables have reduced in size and released most of their juices, so that the pot is becoming dry again. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and the herbs. Once mushrooms have softened a little and garlic is fragrant, deglaze pot with the apple cider. Add the squash, bay leaves, tomato sauce, generous pinches of salt and pepper, and the drained beans.

Place cover on pot and transfer to a preheated 325-degree oven. Cook for 2 hours. Remove lid and check beans for tenderness. If beans are not soft enough mixture is becoming too dry, add a little more tomato sauce or stock and cover again. If not, sprinkle the optional breadcrumbs across the top of the cassoulet, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving