Friday, December 18, 2009

Easy Cassoulet (Page 272)

RECIPE #1060

  • Date: Thursday, December 3, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Mike
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I only have two recipes left in the Grains and Beans section of The Book, and both are for cassoulet! Since now is the perfect season for warm comfort food, I figured I would knock out one of the cassoulet recipes. This is the simpler of the two, hence the title: Easy Cassoulet. I started by soaking dried white beans in cold water overnight in the refrigerator. Then I drained the beans, put them in a pot and added cold water, beef stock, tomato paste, chopped onions, and chopped garlic. I boiled the mixture, then added a bouquet garni of celery, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, parsley, and black peppercorns. I simmered the bean mixture until the beans were almost tender. Then I addded chopped canned tomatoes and simmered some more. Then I worked on the other components of the dish, starting with the duck. I had to special order confit duck legs (AKA duck legs that have been salt-cured, poached in their own fat, then preserved submerged in their own fat). I separated the duck legs into three piles: bones, meat, and skin/fat. I added the bones to the simmering beans. I cooked the skin and fat in a bit of water until the water evaporated and the skin was crispy. I removed the cracklings from the pan and cooked sliced pork sausage in the remaining duck fat. I then removed the sausage from the skillet and cooked chopped garlic in the duck/sausage fat. I added fresh breadcrumbs and cooked until they were golden. I removed the breadcrumb mixture from the heat and stirred in parsley, salt, pepper, and the cracklings. I then stirred the duck meat and sausage into the beans, added salt and pepper and ladled the mixture into a Dutch oven. I sprinkled the breadcumb mixture on top of the beans and I baked the cassoulet until it was brown and bubbling. [Yes, this recipe had a lot of steps. Perhaps it should be called Easy For Cassoulet rather than Easy Cassoulet!]

This cassoulet was pretty tasty. The flavors of the duck and sausage were wonderful with the beans. The dish was rich and hearty. I had only two complaints: one, I only added as much salt as indicated in the recipe yet it came out quite salty. If I made this recipe again I would definitely be more cautious with the salt. My second complaint was that although the breadcrumb and crackling topping was delicious before it went on top of the cassoulet, the bean liquid was so thin that it absorbed right into the breadcumb topping. So the dish didn't have the nice crisp topping that I had hoped it would. Those issues aside, this was a very solid cassoulet recipe. It had great depth of flavor and it was certainly appropriate for a cold winter evening. Cassoulet is one of Mike's favorites and he approved of this recipe.

The recipe is here.

This post is another addition to the series of posts about our wedding in May. The whole week of the wedding was super fun! We got married on Saturday, but my best friend Emilee, her husband Brian, and their son Sam arrived on Tuesday, and my parents did as well. Emilee, Brian, and Sam stayed with us in our apartment for the week, which was great! Having them around completely relieved any stress I was feeling about the wedding. It was a great week, filled with big "family" dinners:

Having Sam around was a riot. He is seriously the best kid ever. He seems to always be in a good mood. Here's Sam just hanging out:

We were all pretty busy, but luckily Sam is great at entertaining himself:

He even put up with our not-entirely-baby-friendly accomodations. For instance, we don't have one of those little baby bathtubs, so Sam took baths in my canning pot!

He didn't seem to care:

One of the tasks of wedding week was assembling care packages for the out of town guests. One thing I don't like about staying at hotels is that I get hungry and there never seems to be anything appealing around to snack on. So we took some canvas bags and filled them with treats for the guests: fruit, chips, cookies etc. My mom generously made dozens and dozens of her delicious cookies for the guests. My special gentleman's mom made awesome homemade candy (peanut butter cups and turtles!). I made some biscotti. Here you can see piles of cookies, wrapped up in cellophane:

More cookie-wrapping:

My special gentleman and I wrote personal notes on the canvas bags, then my mom and Emilee helped me stuff all the goodies inside. We finished it off with a map of Bloomington which I drew (which is funny if you know me because I have a terrible sense of direction), and a little booklet that had a paragraph about each of the guests, so that everyone would know who everyone else was.

Then, all of us went over to the bed and breakfast where the guests were going to be staying and we distributed the bags to the appropriate rooms.

Various other tasks were accomplished in the days leading up to the wedding. Emilee, who officiated our wedding, filled out our marriage license:

She then quizzed both me and my special gentleman for a game that she and Rachel planned for the rehearsal dinner. Here's Emilee trying to get answers out of my special gentleman:

And getting information from me:

Also on the agenda for the week: we helped my mom pick which dress to wear to the wedding!

We also moved all the furniture out of the apartment since we had the ceremony there. Once most of the furniture was gone we had to sit on the floor, but no one seemed to mind:

It was great being surrounded by friends and family leading up to the wedding. We got a lot done that week, but we also spent a lot of time just standing around, laughing and enjoying being together:

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