I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Friday, 14 January 2011

daring kitchen, january

"Cassoulet, that best of bean feasts, is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba." - Julia Child, Julia Child and More Company, Cassoulet for a Crowd

Before this challenge I had neither heard of a confit, nor a cassoulet. I am now a great fan of both. Come to think of it, D and the girls are too. The Daring Kitchen challenge once again has added a new dish to our family's repertoire.

"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."

I started this one by amassing ingredients. Meat, meat, beans, and - oh! - meat. The ducks mentioned in my last blog, a side of pork, pork sausage, and bacon, along with some northern white beans, were all found easily enough. A trip to the Butchery garnered the all-important duck fat (yes, you can buy it in plastic tubs, but it's not cheap) for the confit.

Salted duck legs
A confit is pretty much meat poached in fat. Four duck legs were salted overnight and then submerged in over two cups of duck fat to cook in the oven. This isn't deep-frying, it's done slowly with herbs. It smelled amazing, and made for meat that was tender and flavourful while not being greasy.

This then sat, still in the fat (making for an old-time preservation method, since the fat sealed the meat and extended its storage life), in the fridge to await the cassoulet. I do plan to try a confit on its own sometime, as the meat can be browned under the broiler to enjoy on its own.

Next stage: A few days ago I started tonight's supper. The beans soaked overnight, then were cooked the next day with side pork, onion, and a bouquet garni.

A puree of cooked bacon, onion and garlic was prepared, the sausages were browned in duck fat (of course!). Yesterday it was assembled as what the girls called "bean lasagna" as we layered it.

We lined my roasting pan with bacon (D said: "when you line the pan with bacon, how can you go wrong?"), then a layer of beans, then sausage, then onion/garlic puree. More beans, side pork, more puree. More beans, the duck confit, and more beans. The cooking liquid was poured over the top to finish it off.

That's a lot of food. This is my roaster for the 25-lb Christmas turkeys.

It roasted for two hours before cooling and sitting in the fridge overnight. Today I melted butter, cooked some garlic, and tossed it in Japanese bread crumbs and parsley. The cassoulet was put in the oven and heated, pushing the top crust down as it formed, and then topped with the bread crumbs.

Ready to serve!
On the plate. This is serving #1. We all had seconds.
Oh. my.

First off, this recipe is massive. For supper we had friends over and only ate about half of it. The flavours had melded beautifully, but there was still some distinction. It was hearty, tasty, rich, with that sort of basic goodness that comes from slow-cooked foods. We will make this again! We had rave reviews all around the table, including the kids.

While we may not be in the subzero of Manitoba chopping wood, I'm sure it will suit a day's skating or sledding here in subzero Ontario. Delicious!


Audax said...

I can tell you enjoyed this challenge so so much. Love all your step-by-step photographs. And wonderful to hear that your family and friends loved it so much. Yes it makes a lot but it stores so well. Well done on this challenge.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

David and Stacy said...

You did everything we did apart from the bread crumb part. How did you know to do that? We were a bit confused as to why we didn't get a crust... Now we know how to make one. Thanks!

Well done on a great result!

Lisa said...

Topping the cassoulet with panko breadcrumbs was brilliant! It looks great and so glad you were able to share the large yeild with friends! Thanks for taking part in our challenge!

Cookinva said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog. Great job with cassoulet, it looks divine! Great idea of how to get the crust -- I was puzzled at lack of mine and kept hoping that it will appear somehow. :)

Danni said...