Cassoulet Provençal (French Country-Style White Bean Soup)
French provincial cooking is typically savory and slow-roasted in a medium oven, with the distinctive flavors of olive oil, fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, tarragon), piquant spices such as clove and mace, and a good dash of garlic.
To make the Soup:
Start with the base of white beans, adding liquid broth, then when softened add browned meat(s), season with garlic, parsley, and clove, and cook for several hours until flavors meld. Chop “les trois soeures” (three sisters – celery, onion and carrots) and add with chopped red or green sweet pepper. Finish cooking and serve topped with croutons and parmesan cheese.
1 lb. dry white beans (Great Northern, Cannelini, Navy, etc.)
4 – 6 c water (to cover)
Soak, then cook overnight until beans are soft in dutch oven or crock pot.
Brown 6 whole mild sausages (I use a free-range chicken/beef blend from Jones Farm in Winston-Salem) in 1 tbsp olive oil. Chop sausages, then add to soup. Reserve pan drippings.
1 pint vegetable or beef broth
1 tsp garlic
2 tsp parsley
1 tsp ground cloves
Cook 30 minutes or so.
1 whole carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small red sweet pepper, chopped
Cook several hours until flavors are well developed and blended.
In reserved pan drippings (from cooking sausage), add 2 ¼ c. water, ¾ c. brown whole-grain rice and ¼ cup wild rice. Cover & bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 50 minutes until liquid is absorbed. [Alternative to rice: 2 ½ c. dry whole wheat or whole-grain bread crumbs or croutons, browned in 1 tbsp butter]
Add rice [or breadcrumbs] to soup, cook at least 45 minutes more. Serve warm with dry brown bread or crackers. Top with grated Parmesan Cheese.