Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: Bread and Wine AND Fabulous Friday Food: Cassoulet

You guys know I love food, right?

And you know I love to travel, right?

Find me a book that combines a love for both, and you’ve got me at hello.

Hello, Shauna Niequist!

Shauna has just this week released her third book, Bread and Wine, and I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy to review. Let me tell you, I devoured this book. As in, I was so hungry to read it and to keep reading it that I had a hard time putting it down.

This is a memoir, as are all of Shauna’s books. (Her others, which I have also read, are Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet—both very good.) But this one’s a memoir that involves food and cooking and a little bit of travel.

Right up my alley. 

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book. It’s a little long, so hold on for a minute:

“I hold all these places and flavors with me, like a fistful of shiny coins, like a charm bracelet. I want to be everywhere at once. I want a full English breakfast at a pub in London, and hot buttery naan in New Delhi for lunch. I want conch fritters at a beach bar in the Bahamas, and an ice-cold Fanta overlooking Lake Victoria. I want Cowgirl Creamery’s Triple Crème Brie at the Ferry Market in San Francisco, and the gingerbread pancakes from Magnolia Café in Austin. I want it all—all the tastes, all the smells, all the stories and memories and traditions, all the textures and flavors and experiences, all running down my chin, all over my fingers.
            Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, and specifically why we travel with Henry so often. I think they think it’s easier to keep the kids at home, in their routines, surrounded by their stuff. It is. But we travel because it’s there. . . . We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. . . .
            I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand.” (page 87)

There. She has fully articulated one of the wonders of travel with kids. I love that!

Besides interesting, thought-provoking stories about her life and faith, Shauna fills her book with amazing recipes. I can’t wait to try her recipe for Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Dipping Sauce or Esquites/Mexican Grilled Corn which is taken from one of my absolutely, positively, MOST FAVORITE Mexican restaurant: Bien Trucha in Geneva, IL. (I was pretty excited when she mentioned that one.)

And if all that hasn’t convinced you to get the book and read it, I’ve got a bonus for you: a Fabulous Friday Food post featuring one of Shauna’s recipes.

Today we’re making Real Simple Cassoulet from Bread and Wine.

I’ve wanted to try making cassoulet since my husband had it at his very special birthday dinner back in January. He raved about this simple, classic French dish made with meat and beans. Wouldn’t you know, just a couple of weeks after that dinner, I’d be reading Shauna’s book. And wouldn’t you know that she would actually give me a recipe for cassoulet that didn’t seem too intimidating or difficult.

In fact, it was EASY! Not only that, it was delicious. My husband absolutely loved it and commented on it for a long time after that meal. In fact, I think he put it in his top-five-of-all-time favorite recipes. That’s how much he liked it.

After dinner he said, “That one’s a keeper.”

So here we go, making a “keeper.” Hopefully you’ll try this one and put it in your top five list too.

First, assemble your ingredients. You'll need olive oil, Italian sausage (here's where I deviated just a little from Shauna's original recipe--she used turkey sausage, but I used the real thing), chicken broth, onion, carrots, parsnips, tomato, cannellini beans, thyme, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, and butter. It seems like a lot of ingredients, and it is, but if you do all of your chopping ahead of time, this baby will come together really quickly.

Side note: I had never cooked with parsnips before. Never even bought one. But, I've gotta say, I will definitely be using them in the future. They are kind of sweet, very interesting, and yummy. 

Brown the sausage in the olive oil in a large Dutch oven until it's almost crispy on the outside. You need some of the brown drippings in the bottom of the pan to give the cassoulet its rich flavor.

Remove the sausage from the pan and add the onion, carrots, and parsnips. Brown these for a few minutes to soften the vegetables and add flavor. (Oh, O.K., I deviated from her recipe here too. Shauna said to add the chicken stock here, but I sauteed the vegetables first. Sorry!)

Now go ahead and add the stock, tomato, beans, garlic, thyme, and the sausage. Salt and pepper too. 

Bring all of this to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and allow to simmer for about one hour. Your cassoulet should be thickened and the vegetables nice and tender.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley, and butter and sprinkle over the cassoulet. Bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

And voila! You have a delicious, comforting dish to warm the hearts of your friends and family.

I served this with a green salad and some French bread. Yum! And now I want more. 

I hope you'll try this one. It was so delicious. And, as my husband says, it's a keeper.

Thanks, Shauna! 

Now tell me, have you read Shauna Niequist's book yet? Do you think you'll try to make cassoulet? What are you cooking this weekend?

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

To purchase Shauna's book on Amazon, click here.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of Bread and Wine in exchange for this blog post. All the views expressed here are entirely my own.


  1. I bet B is happy he bought you that beautiful baking dish ... perfect for this delicious dinner.


  2. What a beautiful post--thank you! XO