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Cassoulet

For my first post, I’m going to show you the cassoulet I made for New Years’ Eve.  It is based on Michael Lewis’ Cassoulet de Canard recipe that appeared in Gourmet several years ago.  It’s a two-day recipe that is a lot of work but well worth it.  I’ll also apologize in advance but I forgot to take pictures of some steps (i.e. the middle).

First up is the cooking of the beans:

I know, I know, they're just beans right now.

I know, I know, they're just beans right now.

This is the pork rind after it has been boiled twice:

You can't see the hair in this picture.

You can't see the hair in this picture.

I wish I had taken a picture of it before it had been boiled, as it looked disturbingly like human flesh.

Now let’s get to the action.  After the beans soak, you season them by cooking them with the boiled pork rind, a bouquet garni, and a pound of bacon.

Who knew pork was a season?

Who knew pork was a seasoning?

While this cooks for about an one and one-half hours, you prepare to cook the meat.  And you thought the pork rind and the bacon was the meat.

Sorry about my foot.

Sorry about my foot.

That is seven duck confit legs after removing the meat from the bones.  I didn’t make my own.  So sue me.

Since I forgot to take a picture of the meat cooking, I’ll describe it, and let your imagination do the work.  Basically, I browned some meaty lamb bones in a cup of duck fat.

Of course, I did chicken out and remove some of the duck fat before it melted.

Of course, I did chicken out and remove some of the duck fat before it melted.

Then, a pile of onions were cooked in the duck fat.  I then added a whole bottle of white wine, a quart of chicken stock, the duck confit meat, chopped tomatos, and some garlic and other seasonings.  This cooks for an hour and one-half.  After cooling, both the bean pot and the meat pot go in the refrigerator overnight.

On New Years’ Eve, before our guests arrived, I grilled the saucisson a l’ail, a fresh french garlic pork sausage stuffed into a natural beef casing.  I actually drove into NYC to purchase the sausage, because, well, I’m crazy.  Check out these behemoths:

Check out these behemoths.  That's a 12" grill pan.

That's a 12" grill pan. Sausage not to scale.

After our guests arrived, I took out the two pots, opened them up, and saw this:

Downy soft!  Beans covered by snowy white blanket of fat.

Downy soft! Beans covered by snowy white blanket of fat.

Meat protected by hard shell of fat.

Meat protected by hard shell of fat.

All that fat you see had to be skimmed:

Which half do you want?

Which half do you want?

The meat pot still had a lot of fat throughout — so much that it was too thick to maneuver.  I heated the meat pot for a few minutes to loosen it up.  Then, the duck meat was removed with a slotted spoon and reserved, while the lamb bones were discarded.

The pork rind was discarded and the bacon reserved.  I ended up chopping the bacon into smaller pieces and crisping it in the microwave.  The recipe did not call for this step, but not enough fat had cooked off the bacon to proceed.  Contrary to Mr. Lewis’ recipe, there was plenty of liquid in the bean pot, so it had to be drained.  I used a slotted spoon to be as gentle as possible to the beans, which took a long time.

Assembly consisted of adding the leftover one to two quarts of meat juice, fat, and cooking liquid to the beans, then adding the reserved duck meat and grilled, sliced sausage.  Not having a 10-quart enameled cast iron pot, I split the recipe before doing this and put three quarts of the nearly finished cassoulet in my freezer.  The remaining majority of the cassoulet got breadcrumbs on top and went into the oven for an hour.  What came out was this:

View 1 -- Note the bubbling goodness.

View 1 -- Note the bubbling goodness.

View 2 -- if it weren't burning hot, I'd put my face in it.

View 2 -- if it weren't burning hot, I'd put my face in it.

I have to say, the cassoulet was awesome.  You didn’t taste just beans with meat mixed in, but depths of flavor distributed throughout the dish.

The MVP was the saucisson a l’ail, which had a great aroma and flavor that permeated the dish (and the room).

That’s all for now.

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