Celebrate a milestone year for Camellia beans with a cozy white bean cassoulet
New Orleans’ iconic legume brand Camellia beans turns 100 this year, and its legacy has shaped the cooking practices of both home and professional cooks. “Camellia beans is my go-to,” says Daren Porretto, chef de cuisine at Saint John, a newish old-school creole restaurant in the French Quarter.
Porretto grew up in the Irish Channel and recalls Camellia beans simmering in his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. “It was the only kind of beans in our kitchen at home,” he says. Camellia white beans are at the heart of one of his favorite menu items, creole white bean cassoulet with toasted cornbread. “Something about those beans, they hold up to soaking and cook to a perfect, creamy consistency.”
Makes 5 to 6 servings
¾ cup medium-diced bacon
½ cup sliced andouille sausage
½ cup medium-diced cured Cajun tasso ham
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 pound Camellia white beans, soaked overnight
6 cups chicken stock or water
1 pound pork belly, cut into 3-ounce pieces
4 cups root beer
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Creole seasoning to taste
Crystal hot sauce to taste
Sliced green onions for garnish
- In a large pot over medium heat, add bacon, andouille, and tasso and cook until sausage pieces are browned. Remove cooked meats with a slotted spoon to a clean bowl.
- To the same pot, add onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat, allowing the moisture from the vegetables to help dissolve any browned bits off bottom of pot as you stir. Add bay leaves and stir for 1 minute.
- Drain and rinse soaked beans. Add beans and cooked meats to pot along with chicken stock or water, and give everything a brief stir to combine ingredients. Cover, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, score top of each piece of pork belly in a crosshatch pattern. Place pork belly in a large pot and cover with root beer. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pork belly becomes tender.
- Once beans are tender, use the back of a spoon to mash some of the beans against side of pot, then simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
- Once white beans have thickened, add parsley and stir. Add creole seasoning, salt, pepper, and hot sauce; taste and add more seasoning as needed. Serve beans in a bowl topped with pork belly and sliced green onions.
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