Recipe Sketchbook: Cassoulet

100125-demian-cassoulet-1Obsessing about it for weeks now, I was determined to come up with the best dang recipe for cassoulet.  And then… make it.  In my search I came across a straight-forward cassoulet recipe that had been posted by The Amateur Gourmet which looked very good.  In it he follows a Daniel Boulud cookbook recipe (minus some rendered fat).  From his description and the photographs of the finished product it looks as though his cassoulet turned out really well.

I decided to use The Amateur Gourmet’s recipe as a starting point.  With just a few tweeks.  I had a supply of Fergus Henderson’s Trotter Gear chillin’ in the freezer just waiting for a use.  So I wanted to incorporate that somehow.  Also, thinking about the duck component of cassoulet I had been inspired to confit the legs first using Thomas Keller’s ingeniously simple confit recipe in his Bouchon cookbook.  You might say a little ‘East meets West’ thing was taking shape here (as in ‘Eastern England’ and ‘Western United States’…).  Anyway, you can view my Trotter Gear post here and my duck confit post here.

So I started the day before by re-hydrating (via the cooking method) 16 ounces (455gr) of cannellini beans.  I also marinated the duck legs in preperation for the confit.  On the morning of the cassoulet I put the duck in the oven and managed to keep them there for 8 hours. 

When it was time to put the cassoulet together I pulled the duck legs out of their confit and browned them in the cassoulet pan with the sausage and bacon (pictured above).  I mixed in about 320gr of my prepared Trotter Gear and let it melt into the mix.  I added two medium chopped onions, two chopped carrots, two chopped celery stalks and 6 minced cloves of garlic, letting it saute for a few.  I then added the ‘bouquet garni’ of some flat leaf parsley stalks, a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf.  I added the beans along with the water that they had been cooked in.  I added a 28 ounce (794gr) can of peeled tomatoes.  And about 12 ounces (355ml) of water to make sure everything was covered.  Some kosher salt and ground pepper mixed in, I covered it with foil and put it in the 400F (204C) oven for 1 1/2 hours.

I decided to forgo adding a bread crumb topping.  I wanted my cassoulet to retain a bit of soupiness rather than have the topping soak it all up and become mushy.  Maybe it was because the first cassoulet I had ever eaten did not have a bread crumb topping.  Whatever the reason, I served mine instead with some crusty baguette to soak up the juice.

The end product was really really great.  Super delicious.  Of course who can go wrong with a bunch of sausage and bacon, right?  But the now un-noticable Trotter Gear was the perfect addition that gave the cassoulet a real depth of flavor without grossing some people out with a pile of little pig feet bones.  And the duck confit added a richness and complexity that otherwise would not be there with just a bunch of pig parts.  All in all an amazing meal.  I am sad it is gone.  But we still have a cold month or two ahead of us so maybe I will get a chance to make this again.  Here’s hoping the groundhog sees his shadow next week so that we get six more weeks of winter (totally joking!!  I’m not that crazy…).