Friday, October 9, 2015

Joys of Fall (Cassoulet Recipe)


Since it's Friday, thought it was time to take a break from politics.  Hope you enjoy!

The first fire of the season.

A nice glass of red wine.

Raking up crunchy leaves, only to have them scattered again and again by laughing kids.

What better dish to accompany such an evening than cassoulet?

Cassoulet is one of those wonderful old world dishes that really sticks to your ribs, so best to enjoy it when there is a nip in the air.  Also, it requires a bit of time, so best to make a big batch, and put some in the freezer to enjoy later.  What I am enjoying now, I made this past January.  There are a lot of recipes out there, but I tend to adjust here and there according to what's on hand.  I usually make it after the holidays.  At some point during the holidays we usually have a roast bird or two of some sort, so I have stock, fat, and left over meat to work into usually a gumbo, and cassoulet. 

This recipe is adapted from Saveur's Cassoulet Recipe, but as mentioned before, I usually adjust here and there.  "Season with your senses," as Jean Georges Vongerichten would say, to give credit where credit is due.  So, be sure to check Saveur's recipe out as well and then have a little wine and go with the spirit of it.

You will need 2 - 6 quart pots and 1 skillet for the stove top cooking, and then a large baking dish, at least 4 quarts.  Because I go a little more on all the ingredients I usually use 2-3 Corning dishes to bake.


Cassoulet
*Wait until the very end to add salt; most likely you will not need it.

-1 pound of white beans, soaked in 8 cups of water overnight.
-1 cup of turkey or duck fat.
-2 heads of garlic
-2 large sweet onions chopped
-2 carrots chopped- (usually use about 20 precleaned miniature carrots that I put in kids' lunches)
-2 ham hocks- usually find these, smoked, cooked and packaged.  The smoked preparation adds a great flavor and alleviates the need for salt for the whole dish.
-1 lb. pork shoulder cut into cubes
-1/2 lb. pancetta cubed- (if you can't find, use bacon and it'll be great as well)
-4 sprigs oregano (or 1/2-1 tsp of dried)
-4 sprigs thyme (or 1/2-1 tsp of dried)
-3 large bay leaves
-1  28oz. can of tomatoes -low sodium, whole or diced
-1 cup (or so) of dry white wine- I usually use Sauvignon Blanc
-2 cups of broth from chicken or turkey
-4 *Duck legs Confit (buy at a specialty market or click and you'll be directed to a great recipe for duck confit at Food Republic OR if in a pinch, and you want to do a quick version click -> Simply Recipes, Easy Duck Confit Recipe (2 hrs instead of 2 days) )
-1 lb. of pork sausage- go mild or spicy according to your liking. I usually use Andouille.
-2 cups of bread crumbs. Use good crusty French or Italian.  Put half a loaf in a processor, or if it's already dried, place in a plastic bag and use your aggression and bang it to dust.

In first large pot, use 2-3 TBLS of bird fat to saute half of the garlic, onions and carrots till tender, about 10 minutes.  Add ham hocks, beans and soaking water to pot, bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  After, this pull out ham hocks and allow to cool.  Once cooled, chop meat, discarding the skin, gristle and fat.

In the next large pot, use 2-3 TBLS of bird fat over medium heat to cook chopped pork shoulder, (10 minutes) then add pancetta or bacon, and cook until cooked through and slightly crisp.  To this add the remainder of garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until veggies slightly brown.  Add herbs.  If you are using the sprigs, tie 'em up with kitchen twine, or cheesecloth.  Add undrained tomatoes.  Cook about 15 minutes till all seems slightly melded and thickened.  Add wine.  Cook for 15 to allow to reduce, concentrating the flavors.  Add broth, and boil, then reduce to medium low, and cook for 1 hour, uncovered.  If you strung up your herbs, discard them, or if not just remove the 3 bay leaves at this point. 

Next, the duck legs; they are already cooked but just to add to the flavor you will sear them in 1/4 cup (4 TBLS) of bird fat in the large skillet for 8 minutes.  If sausages are links, slice into 1/2 inch slices.  Remove duck legs from skillet and fry sausage slices in same pan with the remaining fat in the pan, another 5-8 minutes, till slices are slightly browned and cooked through.  Pull duck meat from bones.  Add duck meat, sausages, and fat into pork stew, (2nd pot).

Heat oven to 300 F.   Combine pots.  I find it easiest to pour 1st pot into 2nd and mix thoroughly, if you have room.  If by chance you have used smaller pots, and are cooking in the oven in more than one baking vessel, no problem, just ladle back and forth from pots into baking dishes so that each baking dish has a half of bean mixture and half pork and duck stew.

Cover with bread crumbs so that you have a nice crust; drizzle remaining bird fat over bread crumbs.
Bake for 3 hours.  Raise heat to 500F and bake for 5 minutes to brown bread crumb crust.


If you do not have access to duck, use turkey or even chicken legs and the respective fat.  For chicken, I'd use at least 6 chicken leg quarters.  Just cook before starting and then as with duck, sear in fat again.  Especially with chicken, it will not be as rich of a dish, but will still be great.

Bonne chance et bon appetit!