Sunday, November 7, 2010

A cassoulet kind of day

I've been searching for the perfect tree.  I am having trouble, though.  It seems that by the time I find a colorful one, it has already lost most of its leaves.  This one caught my eye because of the different colors.
And look at our blue sky.  A sight to behold.  Although this morning I awoke to the first frost of the season covering my car.  I dashed outside to grab the paper in my pajamas and socks and dashed right back in!  In record time, I think, to have a nice hot cup of coffee.

My weekend project was to make cassoulet, a French bean and sausage stew.  I had some in December of 2008 in the city of Carcassonne.  It was my first visit to this place I had read about so many times and studied in French civilization and history courses.
I was so excited when I got my first glimpse that I was hanging out the window of the car to get this shot.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The fortress was completely restored in 1853 by Viollet-le-Duc.

We walked around in the evening so that I could see it all lit up.

C'est moi!  In the shadows.

 We went back the next day to wander around the town.  It was a quiet, chilly day.  We stopped in here to have lunch.
This fellow watched me eat.
(No, this is not Chef Érick!)
I took his photo but completely neglected to take a photo of my cassoulet...
Défense de fumer et de cracher.  No smoking or spitting.  I didn't do either, thank you very much, merci beaucoup.  By the time the fromage arrived, I had recovered my composure and had my camera back in action.
It was a wonderful trip.  Merci, Chef Érick! Je m'en souviendrai toujours.
I decided to use the cassoulet recipe on display at Wine Authorities.  Craig sold me two duck confit legs to use. 

A friend gave me some pureed tomatoes from her freezer.   The rest I found at Whole Foods.  It took me the better part of the day to prepare. 
Removing the skin and fat from the legs--
Frying up the skin to use in the topping--
Fresh parsley to chop--
Making the bread crumb topping--
And several hours later-- voilà!

High school-age son ate two helpings.  Génial! Du succès!
Some homemade bread and a nice glass of red, Château Jouclary, Cabardes, Languedoc-Roussillon 2007, completed the meal.  A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It comes from a place just 10 km north of Carcassonne.  Parfait.  Thanks, Craig, for the recommendation.

And I recommend reading the recipe all the way through a couple of times before even thinking about beginning.  

"Quick" Cassoulet Recipe
(Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

Serves 6-8
Prep time: 4 hours, including baking

This recipe can be assembled one day ahead and baked in the oven the next day.  The white beans need to be soaked overnight ahead of time, or in a pinch, buy precooked white beans (but that would affect the flavor of this dish severely).

1 lb. dry white beans, rinsed
8 c. cold water
2 c. chicken stock
3/4 lb. chopped onion
4 Tbsp. minced garlic
4-inch piece of celery
3 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1 med. bayleaf
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 cloves
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley, save stems
1  14-oz. can pureed tomatoes with juice
1 3/4 lb. duck confit leg
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. cooked garlic pork sausage cut into half inch diced pieces
2 c. bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Special equipment:
Butchers twine
3-4 inch deep, 4-5 quart casserole dish

Place soaked beans into a 6-8 quart pot, add cold water, chicken stock, onions, and half the garlic.  Bring to a boil.  Add the celery, thyme, bayleaf, cloves, and parsley stems by bundling them all in cheesecloth sachet tied with string.  You will remove the sachet later.  Reduce heat from a boil to a simmer and keep uncovered.  Cook 45 - 60 minutes and make sure the beans are tender and thoroughly cooked.  When the beans are tender, add the tomatoes and juice.  Bring to a boil and then simmer another 15 minutes to reduce the liquid.

While the beans are cooking, remove all the skin and fat from the duck confit legs.  Cut the skin into 1/2 inch pieces and reserve. Remove meat from the duck bones and put the bones into the cooking beans for extra flavor.  Reserve the meat for later.  Place the skin, with 1/4 cup water, in a saute pan.  Simmer the skin and fat to render and once the water is gone, cook until crispy, then remove.  Drain on paper towels.  Keep the fat in the pan.

Add olive oil to the fat (unless there is lots of excess fat, then leave it out) and brown the sausage.  Remove the meat and hold with the duck meat.  Keep the fat.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In the saute pan, add the remaining garlic to the fat/oil mixture.  Add the bread crumbs and stir over low heat until golden.  Turn off the heat and add parsley, kosher salt, pepper and crisp fat.  Stir well.

Assemble by removing the sachet and the duck bones from the beans.  Add the sausage, duck meat and salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the cassoulet mixture into the casserole dish making sure the meat is evenly spread out.  There should be just enough liquid to cover the beans and meat slightly.  If too much liquid remains, spoon some out, reduce over high heat and then add back to the casserole dish.  Spread the bread crumbs over the top and bake uncovered for about 1 hour or until bubbling and the crumbs are golden brown.

Bon appétit, Carcassonne!

No comments: