Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Cocooning and Cassoulet
Can we have Daylight Savings Time every weekend? Pretty please? Man - that was freakin awesome to luxuriate in bed for an entire extra hour this morning...

I don't know if it was the awful weather Friday night, or just the end of a very long week at work and the need to do something both mindless, comforting, and creative, but with my London friend down in DC for a couple of days, I had the entire weekend before me to clean, cook and cocoon. She comes back this evening, and I had the overwhelming desire to make comfort food for her and some other friends, and I decided to tackle a cassoulet. I wish you could smell my house right now..... I did try to lighten up the original recipe - which calls for more than a POUND of duck fat and salt pork, and cooking it under a layer of pork fat. That might be rich, but it could also damn near kill you. This takes 2-3 days to make, but the end results are SO worth it! In case you are so inclined....

  • 2 pounds of White Northern Beans or canellini beans soaked in water overnight. Discard the soaking water, refill with fresh water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, let beans boil briskly for 15 minutes. Take off heat and let them sit while you assemble the meats.
  • 1 duckling. 4-5 pounds. Remove the giblets, rinse thoroughly, season with salt and pepper and roast at 450' for 45 minutes. It will be underdone, but will get cooked more later. Drain the duck, savings the juices, skim the fat and save, cool it, skin it, and chop the meat. Discard the bones and skin.
  • Along with the duck, roast 2 pounds of lamb bones in a separate pan(ask the butcher for them).
  • In a large, heavy skillet, sear the following meats in batches, adding a little duck fat (from the roast), or olive oil as needed to keep from sticking, and put the seared meats in a large bowl to cool. Season the meats with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour: The duck neck and gizzards, a package of pancetta, 2 pounds of cubed lamb meat, and 2 pounds of cubed pork (I wanted to use rabbit and couldn't find any).
  • Without cleaning the skillet, add more duck fat if needed, and saute the following vegetables over moderate heat until soft - about 12-15 minutes: 3 large carrots diced, 4 large ribs of celery diced, one large yellow onion, diced, 6+ cloves of garlic finely chopped.
  • You're gonna need at least an 8 quart casserole dish with a cover for all of this, and heat the oven to 350'. Pour in the beans, add a 14.5 oz. can of diced or stewed tomatoes, 2 bouquet garni tied in cheesecloth, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, and a teaspoon of allspice. Add the mirepoix, and using a slotted spoon, add all the seared meats, and the lamb bones.
  • In the skillet, pour 2 cups of vermouth, and all the juices from the seared meats and the duck. Reduce by about a third, and scraped up all the great browned bits from the pan. Add to the beans.
  • Pour in as much beef stock as needed to just cover the beans (about 4 cups). Cover and cook in the oven at 350' for 2.5 hours. Cool and refigerate overnight.
  • The next day, remove the cassoulet from the fridge, and dig out the bones, duck neck, and - if you can find them - the gizzards, and discard.
  • Add the duck meat, and 1 pound of garlic sausage or andouille sliced into rounds. At this point, you can also add the authentic paste made of a pound of boiled salt pork processed into a paste with 3 more cloves of garlic, or you can just add more garlic - which is what I did.
  • Mix together 4 cups of fresh bread crumbs, one cup of chopped parsley and 2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle 1/2 of this mixture on top of the cassoulet.
  • Bake the cassoulet at 350' for 45 minutes.
  • "Break the crust". Stir the crust down into the cassoulet and spread the remaining topping on the cassoulet again. Some versions of cassoulet require "breaking the crust" up to seven times before it's complete, but since I don't have a pound of pork fat to absorb, I only need to do it twice. If the cassoulet seems too dry for any reason, just add some more beef stock or water. It should have a moist, creamy, stew like consistency, but should not be soupy.
  • Cook for another 45-60 minutes until the crust is brown and crunchy.
  • Serve with a green salad, crusty French bread and the best, fruity Cotes du Rhone you can afford.
  • Oh, and invite a bunch of friends over - this makes a lot (freezes well). Bon Appetite!!
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:30 AM  
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