Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Authentic Cassoulet - Daring Cooks

I went on a culinary journey without even leaving my kitchen. I took 4 days to create an authentic Duck Confit, Pork Belly, Sausage Cassoulet (rhymes with Hoo-Ray!) I didn't spend every hour of those four days just cooking this, of course. In fact, I just did a little each day while cooking dinner or other food. At the end of the week - Voila, I had a giant pot of comforting Cassoulet for the weekend. For me, it was part of the monthly food blogging challenge called Daring Cooks. A chosen host submits a technique, recipe, cultural aspect of cooking and it is meant to encourage us brave cooks to stretch and grow (and this month was no exception.) Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

For you, I hope it encourages you to try something new also. This Cassoulet experience was particularly positive because all along the way we were creating separate dishes that could be a welcome addition to a culinary arsenal on their own:

Duck Confit
Duck Fat (incredible for french fries or potato casseroles)
White Northern Beans (cooked with Pork Back and herbs)

Sauteed Italian Sausages with Onions and Garlic
Since making this Cassoulet felt like a little journey, I thought I'd give you the recipe like a travel journal. I've listed things as I did them each day. You can use it to follow along when you make this, or create your own way that matches your lifestyle. At the end, I'll include the recipe as given, also. My only regret is that I can't add Click-n-Sniff to this posting because the smells of browning duck, pork, sausages, onions, legumes and herbs along the way were like a daily aromatic amuse bouche for the whole family and had them excited about the weekend bounty they ultimately devoured.

Day 1-

1) I bought a whole duck, broke it down into leg/thighs, breasts, wings, carcass and fat trimmings.
2) Liberally rubbed Sea Salt all over the leg/thighs and covered with plastic on a plate and refrigerated over night.

3) Trimmed the 2 breasts and held in fridge for another use.

4) Saved carcass and wings for Duck Stock

5) Placed all fat into a deep sided skillet and rendered it for duck fat, cooled it and held in refrigerator.

Day 2 -

1) Placed the leg/thighs into a baking dish, nestled in a few twigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple cloves of garlic, then covered in melted duck fat.

2) Cooked in the oven 375F for 1 hour.

3) In a deep pot, placed 3 cups of dried Northern White beans and covered with water. I placed those in refrigerator for overnight.
Day 3-

1) Drained beans and put them in a large pot with a bouquet garni (a tied selection of parsley and thyme), a bay leaf, a handful of pork rind and about 1 lb pork belly.

2) Heated the bean, etc. to a boil, then reduced to a simmer for 30 minutes, added a little salt/pepper, stirred things up and simmered for another 30 minutes til the beans were tender.
3) Removed the onions and herbs and threw those away. Removed the Pork Belly: cooled, wrapped and held in the refrigerator. Drained the beans: cooled and held the beans and the water separately for later. Removed the pork rind for using when browning the sausages.
4) In a skillet on Med/High, I heated a few ounces of duck fat til very hot and added the sausages to the pan. I browned the sausages, removed and held those on a paper plate while browning the onions, garlic and pork rind from the beans, in the same hot duck fat.
5) In a blender, I added the browned onions, garlic and another tablespoon of duck fat and pureed until smooth.
6) In a large iron pot I put it all together. I started with a bottom layer of slab bacon, latticed together. I added beans, then layered with Sausage (all along the way adding a few spoons of the puree.) I added more beans, then the Pork Belly...more beans, then the Duck Confit, and ended with beans.
The last step was to pour the reserved bean liquid into the pot, just covering the top layer of beans.
I put the whole pot into a preheated oven on 400F for one hour, then reduced the heat to 250F for 1/2 hour. I removed it, let it cool and refrigerated it overnight so all those individual meals would combine their flavors into one giant savory snuggly for my insides.

Day 4 - Cook and Eat Day :D

By now, everyone in the family knew what we were having for dinner, could say "cassoulet" and even helped set the dishes out; talk about excitement.

I preheated the oven to 375F and cooked the Cassoulet for one hour, reduced the temp to 200F and let it simmer for 1/2 hour.
I wish I had the time to tell you how it tasted.......JUST KIDDING, I mean don't you think you can almost taste it yourself by now? There was a warm hardy full-flavored meat in every bite. The sausage had a tiny bit of spice and heat, the duck had that fall apart texture with a little saltiness, the pork belly was so tender and almost sweet, and it was held together with the creamy white beans and pureed onions. Oh good Lord...oh good, Lord. We had two bowls each, and I had earlier scooped out a small casserole for freezing. When I can leave our son with something so good for dinner on the weekend, it makes for a guilt-free date night for my husband and I.
If you start this on a weekend, you could cut this process in half, I think. Or you could do a little each night like I did. I very much like recipes that contain recipes like this one. Here's the recipe as given to me, (from the travel channel Anthony Bourdain ), which I cut in half. Let me know if you've ever made something like this, or if you try one. Thank you for stopping by to read. Hope I made you hungry. :D


chef_d said...

Oh wow, this is one good looking cassoulet! Had as much fun making mine. Great job on this challenge!

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

Oh wow! I feel like I do have click-n-sniff cause your photos are so great! I am still trying to wipe the slobber off my screen from licking those shots.
great job. what an inspiration.

Lisa said...

Cassoulet is not normally a pretty dish, but you made it look gorgeous and utterly mouth watering! Phenomenal photos too! Thanks so much for taking part in our challenge this month!

Audax said...

Your photos are stunning no amazing they are so clear and professional and the confit and meats looks so tender and juicy. Yes click&smell would be marvellous. This is the most amazing stew EVER and I totally understand your reactions to it superb work!

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

David and Stacy said...

We agree, click & sniff would be a valuable addition - all along the process our kitchen (and most of the house) smelled wonderful.

Well done on a great result!


Jenni said...

Fantastic job!!!! Your cassoulet is stunning!!!!! I ANSI glad that you enjoyed it, and that you had the foresight to freeze some!
Your photo journal is great, too!!