Bread is the cornerstone of civilization. Humans have been making bread in various forms worldwide for thousands of years. It is a simple, basic, nutritious foodstuff. But its simplicity of ingredients belies the complexity of the craft of baking. It is very difficult and requires an enormous amount of skill and finesse to consistently make a variety of good quality bread. Most mass outlets have completely abandoned the real craft of bread making having industrialized the process with ultra-refined flour filled with preservatives and stabilizers, dried yeast, flash frozen dough and extended shelf lives.
Good bread, really good bread, is one of my favorite things in the world. For a time it was incredibly hard to find good bread in Rochester until the (and I use the word cautiously) “artisanal” independent bakeries started to pop up around the city offering expertly baked bread and pastries made with real unadulterated flours, whole grains, sourdough, hearty properly thick crusts and ethereal fluffy crumb. Of these bakeries one stands out as my absolute local favorite: Flour City Bread, and this is a love letter to them.
Flour City Bread is located at the Rochester Public Market and is hands down the best bakery in the area. The warmth and charm of the space it occupies as well as the family owners/operators alone make it worth a stop in even if the bread and pastries they produce were not the best in the city. I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for the craft and care they put into every product they sell, in every possible way this local business wins and brings honor to its namesake, The Flour City.
Flour City Bread
52 Public Market
Rochester, New York
Call (585) 957-3096
Cassoulet was originally just a rural basic bean casserole from the south of France that has mutated and evolved over time to become synonymous with any hearty baked bean dish. There are endless variations on the dish most involving white beans and fatty preserved or smoked meats such as pork, goose, and duck. It also often contains sausage. Some variations call for tomatoes or tomato paste, others have a breadcrumb topping. I have discovered that my favorite ingredient to use in this dish is a smoked pork jowl but you can substitute any smoked or preserved meat such as pork ham hocks, neck bones or confit duck. The choice of sausage is also important, it can be fresh or smoked and should have a fair amount of garlic bite. The best equipment to use for cooking this casserole is a Dutch oven as it is versatile enough to be used on the stovetop and in the oven. I find that thick hearty dishes like this are best prepared in late fall through the coldest parts of winter. This version of cassoulet is something I have spent a few winters working on and I think it is the perfect balance of everything that is good about cassoulet. It fills a cold winter night like nothing else and pairs perfectly with any good crusty fresh bread.
You will need:
1 bag GOYA dry great northern beans (any white beans can be substituted)
2-4 links of sausage (pictured is smoked andouille)
1 Smoked Pork Jowl (Camellia brand is best)
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh Thyme (separated from stems)
1 cup white cooking wine
2-3 cooking onions diced
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
3-6 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 tsp of rendered fat or olive oil
Salt/Pepper to taste
Start by soaking the dry beans overnight in water. Drain and rinse the beans under cold water and pour them into the Dutch oven, add the pork jowl, bay leaf and a dash of pepper. Fill the pot with water until all of the beans and the pork are covered. Place on stovetop on high heat until boiling then reduce to a low simmer for about an hour. After an hour remove the bay leaf (discard) and the jowl. Let the jowl cool enough to be handled. Add more water to cover the beans if necessary and continue to simmer on low while preparing the second step.
Take the cooled jowl and remove the skin from the meat, discard the skin and shred or chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Heat a large pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat, add in the rendered fat or oil along with the garlic, onion, thyme and lightly fry until just starting to brown. Add in the pork, sausage, and carrots and fry a few minutes more until everything starts to brown nicely. Turn to high heat and deglaze the pan by pouring in the white wine, stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for roughly 15 minutes until the wine begins to reduce and thicken. Add the wine/onion/pork mixture from the pan into the Dutch oven and thoroughly mix with the beans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the Dutch oven uncovered on a middle rack and bake for two hours or until the Cassoulet has thickened, browned and is bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving warm with crusty fresh bread.
Between Now and Then sharpen your blades and chew the fat:
J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician, artist, art director and gallery curator from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” and is a veteran artist whose paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers, and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He is on the board of directors for Flower City Comic Con (FC3) serving as art director, is the resident curator for the art gallery at Bread & Water Theatre, lives in the Park Ave area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.