Cassoulet (The Perfect Winter Supper)

The beans and the sausage:                                                                                           
4 quarts chicken stock                                                                                                                              

1 nitrite free ham hock
1 pd. Smoked nitrite free sausage
3 whole peeled and coarsely chopped yellow onions
2 -3 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp. Chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp dried thyme

The Meat:
1 lb. pork loin cut in 2 inch chunks
1 lb. lamb shoulder cut in 2 in. chunks
1 chicken with bone in cut up
2 cups organic fire roasted canned tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf

Rinse beans and then place in boiling chicken stock. Boil for two minutes and then let sit for 30 minutes.

Add the ham hock, onions , garlic and herbs to the beans with black pepper to taste. Simmer until beans are tender.
Saute or grill sausage. Then cut in 1 inch slices.

Saute in olive oil the chicken pieces until crisp but not totally cooked. Remove from pan.

Saute the lamb and pork in a large pot in batches until they are browned. Remove and sauté onions and celery until tender. Add white wine and stir well, scraping up any meat that has stuck to the pan. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer ingredients on low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours with the lid on, or until the meat is very tender.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Combine the beans and bean liquid with the cooked meat/tomato mixture. Add the sausage and chicken. The mixture should be very moist. If it is not, then add more chicken stock. Cook for 1 hour covered in the oven. The French like their cassoulet dry, and so they leave the dish uncovered while baking. I prefer mine moist and thus cover it. You chose which way you prefer.

Serve the cassoulet with crusted French bread and a light crisp green salad.

Chilled poached pears in red wine make a tasty dessert.

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