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Daring Cooks December 2010|Well that was French! (Cassoulet)

Oh. My. God.

Best. Dinner. Ever.

For the bots (hi bots!):

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.

[An aside – I am in Perú right now and in an overzealous “let’s get rid of crap!” moment, I deleted all the photos on my camera to make room for more of the delightful city of Lima…and this included my cassoulet photos.  In truth, they weren’t very good, so we’re not missing much here, but that’s the reason there aren’t at least a couple of pics to give you an idea of what this strange-yet-mouth-watering taste of heaven looked like.  Sorry friends – next time]

This is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I’m not actually one to love anything that I cook; I love it when other people cook for me, but usually, the things that I cook tend to fall short of my expectations (I’ll work on that in 2011). This dish, however, far surpassed my hopes. It did have a running start – there is more pork in it than…in a lot of pork. That’s hard not to love. But one of the other things that was a surprise treat was the confit.  This is a process of slow poaching something – virtually anything – in fat – virtually any kind of fat.  This challenge required us to incorporate a confit into a cassolet; vegetarians, despair not!  Prepare some leeks, cover in olive oil, and bake at low temp for a few hours and you will have a lovely, lovely confit.  In fact, with some modification, this whole dish would be quite lovely as a vegetarian option.

But I digress.  Ours was a meat extravaganza, including chicken drumsticks (instead of duck full leg, with the thigh attached), spicy sausage (the spice made a nice extra kick), pork belly (lordy is there a lot of fat there!) and bacon (instead of pork rind, which our local Asian market somehow did not have).  Oh, and there’s beans.  Which normally would be an afterthought, but with all that meat in the mix, the beans are actually the star of the show.  We can’t stop eating them…which is going to make for an interesting night.

A few side notes – I didn’t have pork rind, so for the sauteed onion mixture I added a bit of extra salt to compensate.  I highly recommend sauteing the onions for the puree after cooking the sausages (per the recipe).  Also, as I mentioned I didn’t have the pork rind so I used bacon instead to line the pan.  I think it did add overall to the dish, so I would recommend putting some kind of salty pork goodness around the dish as it cooks.  Oh!  And I halved this thing and it made enough for at least four people.  I love Anthony Bourdain, but he must have been hitting the drugs again to think that twice this much food is the appropriate size for four…

This dish is a bit of work, but gets a whole-hearted, no-holds-barred, ninja thumbs up.  Please make it.

Cheers.

p.s. Normally I would try to link to a few other DC challenges, but being in Perú my time is limited (please come here, the food is amazing!). To see more challenges from this talented group, check out the Daring Kitchen – and join us if you’re so inclined!

p.p.s. A HUGE “happy birthday” shoutout to the husband – I am sorry not to be with you today, but give thanks and celebrate your journey every day of the year.:) Te amo querida.

Cassoulet (from Anthony Bourdain à Lisa Marie and Jenni)

This recipe freezes well, so if you need to make several small batches, go for it!
Preparation Time:

For Duck (or Chicken) Confit: 2 Days.
First day, 15 minutes.
Second Day, 2 hours.

For Cassoulet: 3 Days
First Day: 10 minutes, if that
Second Day: Approximately 3 ½ hours, most of which is oven time
Third Day: 1 ½ hours, all oven time

For Garlic Confit: 1 ½ hours

Equipment Needed:

Shallow Dish
Plastic Wrap
Saucepan
Ovenproof Casserole Dish
Foil
large bowl
large pot
strainer or colander
sauté pan
paper towels
blender
large (about 6-8 quarts) ovenproof earthenware dish, or another non-reactive ovenproof container. Or you can use several smaller containers, if need be.
measuring cup
kitchen spoon

Cassoulet
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 – 8 (unless you’re Lisa Michele)

Ingredients for Duck Confit

4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove

Day One

1.Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination – meaning don’t allow any other food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

Day Two

1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.

5. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the “ankle” of each leg pulls away from the “knuckle.” The meat should be tender.
6. Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. Think of someone you hate when you do it.

Ingredients for Cassoulet

5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs

Day One

1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right?  (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

Day Two

1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.

4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.

9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.

10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you’ll need that later).
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.

12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.

13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You’re looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.

14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Three

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don’t get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn’t have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

Chicken Confit Using Olive Oil
Chicken Confit by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network

Ingredients:

4 chicken leg portions with thighs attached, excess fat trimmed and reserved (about 2 pounds/ about 1 kg total)
1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (15.6 ml) kosher salt (**note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves
4 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons (7½ ml) (6 gm) black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ( 2½ ml) (3 gm) table salt
4 cups (1 liter) olive oil

Directions:

1. Lay the leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the kosher salt and black pepper. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and sprigs of thyme on each of 2 leg portions. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions, flesh to flesh, on top. Put the reserved fat from the chicken in the bottom of a glass or plastic container. Top with the sandwiched leg portions. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
2 .Preheat the oven to cool 200°F/90°C/gas mark ¼.
3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Remove the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat and reserve. Rinse the chicken with cool water, rubbing off some of the salt and pepper. Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Put the reserved garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot. Sprinkle evenly with the peppercorns and salt. Lay the chicken on top, skin side down. Add the olive oil. Cover and bake for 12 to 14 hours, or until the meat pulls away from the bone.

Garlic Confit
Garlic Confit from Saveur, Issue #129

Ingredients:

1½ cup (360 ml) Olive Oil
1½ tsp (7½ ml) (4 gm) kosher salt (**Note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
10 whole black peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh thyme
65 garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 ½ cups/360 ml)
1 dried bay leaf

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2. Put ingredients in a 1 quart (950 ml) pot, making sure all the garlic is submerged in the oil. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap. Cover jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups/480 ml.

Leek Confit
Leek Confit by Molly Wizenberg, as seen in Bon Appetit
Makes 2 cups/480 ml.

Ingredients:

¼ cup (60 ml) (1/2 stick) (60 gm) unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into ¼ inch (6½ mm) thick slices (about 5 cups/1200 ml)
2 tbsp (30 ml) water
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3½ gm) salt

Directions:

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.
2. Add leeks, stir to coat.
3. Stir in water and salt.
4. Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
5. Cook leeks until tender, stirring often, about 25 minutes.
6. Uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2-3 minutes.

Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet
Vegetarian Cassoulet by Gourmet Magazine, March 2008

(Note: we didn’t actually make this recipe, but we’re sure it’s a good one!)

Ingredients:

3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (1 gm) ground cloves
3 (19-oz/540 gm) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) water
4 cups (960 ml) (300 gm) coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (12 gm) chopped garlic
1/4 cup (60 ml) (80 gm) chopped parsley

Directions:

1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (13 mm) pieces, then wash well (see cooks’ note, below) and pat dry.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon (2½ mm) each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

Thirty Minute Cassoulet
Thirty Minute Cassoulet by Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way, KQED
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon (15 ml) good olive oil
About 1 pound (500 gm) rolled shoulder ham (also called a daisy ham or Boston Butt), tough outer skin removed
About 3/4 pound (350 gm) hot Italian sausages, cut into 3-inch (75 mm) pieces (about 6 pieces)
4 bratwurst sausages (about 1 pound/500 gm)
1 cup (240 ml)diced (1/2 inch/15 mm) whole button mushrooms (about 3 ounces/85 gm)
3/4 cup (180 ml) diced (1/2-inch/15 mm)) onion
2 tablespoons (30 ml) crushed garlic (about 4 large cloves)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 gm) dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 (15½ ounces/440 gm each) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed under warm running water
3/4 cup (180 ml) (about 7 oz/200 gm) diced (1-inch/25 mm) tomato (1 large plump tomato)
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (30 grams)coarsely chopped fresh parsley

For Serving
Tabasco sauce
Dijon-style mustard

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the ham and Italian sausage.
2. Cover and cook over high heat for 7 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
3. Add the bratwurst, mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Mix well and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Add the beans, tomato, water, and pepper, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and boil gently for 5 minutes.
5. At serving time, discard the bay leaf, cut the ham into slices and the sausage pieces in half, and arrange the meat on a platter with the beans.
6. Sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve with the Tabasco and mustard.

Additional Resources:

Quick video montage of Bourdain’s cassoulet

Watch a video on making Duck Confit

Video of Jacques Pepin making his “quick version” of Cassoulet

Ideas on where to find Duck Fat and Tarbais Beans online:

Williams Sonoma – Rougie’ Duck Fat, $10.95 for 11.2 ounces/315 gm (US Dollars)
D’artagnan – Duck Fat – $5.99 for 7 ounces/200 gm (US Dollars) Tarbais Beans – $11.99 per lb.
French Feast – Rougié · Duck fat, glass jar · 320g (11.3 oz) · $8.40, Tarbais Beans – 500g (17.6 oz) · $19.00 · Available end of December

Also check your local butchers, meat markets, and gourmet food stores.

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