Cassoulet

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A few years ago, I set out to produce a succulent and tasty Christmas goose. At the same time, I was interested in creating a New Year's cassoulet, which is a French winter dish composed of white beans and numerous meats topped with bread crumbs and drizzled with duck fat, truly a decadent yet country-style feast. Subsequently, I poached the goose before roasting, which produced a flavorful goose broth that could be used in the cassoulet, and goose fat for both the duck confit (duck legs cured, and baked in duck or goose fat) and cassoulet. Not to worry if you do not have a Christmas goose as you can buy jars of duck fat (on Amazon or at special grocers) and chicken broth in place of the goose fat and broth. Since it was the holidays I spread out the parts of the recipe so that no one day was labor intensive and I could thoroughly enjoy the entire week. This began a holiday tradition in our household that we have enjoyed for years.

ONWARD:

Here are the fun culinary holiday adventures and recipes for cassoulet broke down day-by-day. This recipe is based on recipes by Alice Waters and Madeleine Kamman, two outstanding French-trained chefs that I have admired for years. You may just discover what a fun and delicious annual holiday tradition this can become!

Game Plan

Day 1

Poach the goose, reserve the goose uncovered on a baking rack. Strain, and chill the goose broth and fat overnight.

Day 2 (Christmas Day)

Roast the goose and potatoes. Make the tart cherry jus. Braise the red cabbage. Enjoy this meal!

Day 3

Enjoy the leftovers!

Day 4

Soak the cassoulet beans overnight in filtered water. Prepare and refrigerate the carrots, onion, celery, herbs, and spices for cooking the beans.

Day 5

Cook the beans until just done. Drain the beans, discard the liquid, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Toss the beans with goose or duck fat and garlic. Refrigerate.

Day 6

Begin the duck confit by curing in the refrigerator.

Day 7.

Prepare, cook, and refrigerate the lamb stock. Bake the duck confit and refrigerate.

Day 8 (New Year's Day)

Assemble, bake, and serve the cassoulet.

Cassoulet Recipes:

Cassoulet Beans

10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ pounds flageolet, cannellini, or Great Northern beans

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

6 parsley stems, chopped

8 black peppercorns

1 small onion, large diced

1 carrot, large diced

1 stalk celery, large diced

1 ½ teaspoon sea salt

6 cloves whole garlic, peeled

1 quart goose or chicken broth, possibly more

¼ cup goose or duck fat

6 cloves garlic, minced

DIRECTIONS:

1.     Pick over the beans, removing any stones, dirt clods or bad beans. Wash and drain. Cover the beans with enough filtered water to cover by at least two inches. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.     Prepare a sachet bag with the bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems, and peppercorns in cheesecloth secured by butcher’s twine.

3.     Drain the beans and place in a slow cooker or saucepot with the onions, carrots, celery, salt and whole garlic cloves. Cover with the broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans are fully cooked but not mushy about one-and-half to two-and-half hours depending upon the beans. Add more broth if necessary.

4.     Drain the beans, reserving the liquid to use later. Discard the sachet bag and vegetables.

5.     Toss the beans with the goose or duck fat and minced garlic. Refrigerate.

Duck Confit

2 servings

INGREDIENTS:

⅛ teaspoon allspice

½ bay leaf, crumbled

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon cumin

⅛ teaspoon ginger

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon dry thyme leaves

2 duck legs

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

8 cloves garlic

1 to 2 cups goose or duck fat

DIRECTIONS:

1.     Grind all the herbs and spices in a mortar or spice grinder.

2.     Pat the duck legs dry with a paper towel. Place the duck legs in a baking dish just large enough to hold the legs side by side. Sprinkle both sides of the legs with salt, herbs, and spices equally. Cover and place in the refrigerator for thirty-six hours.

3.     Remove from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 275°F.

4.     Pat each leg with a paper towel to remove excess herbs, spices, salt, and liquid. Drain, wash and dry the dish. Place the legs and garlic in the clean baking dish. Cover with the goose or duck fat. If necessary, add more fat so that the legs are completely covered in fat.

5.     Bake for two to two and a half hours until the garlic is a deep golden brown. Cool on a rack.

6.     Refrigerate the duck and garlic in the fat, covered until ready to use.

Lamb Broth

10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds lamb shank or shoulder with bones

2 tablespoons goose or duck fat

1 large onion, small diced

1 ½ cups dry white wine

2 Roma tomatoes

2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed

1 ½ cups filtered water

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1.     Cut the meat from the bones in approximately two-inch pieces. Reserve the bones.

2.     Heat the fat in a non-reactive saucepot. Brown the meat and onions over medium-high heat. When browned on all sides, deglaze with a small amount of wine and release the fond (browned pieces stuck to the pan) with a wooden spoon.

3.     Add the bones, tomatoes, thyme, garlic, water, and remaining wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for one hour.

4.     Add salt and pepper. It should be flavorful and tart.

5.     Strain and reserve the broth. Place the meat cubes in the broth. Refrigerate. Discard the vegetables and herbs.

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Cassoulet Assembly

10 to 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound garlic sausage

The beans

The duck confit

The lamb cubes

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup lamb broth

2 cups goose or chicken broth

4 cups whole grain breadcrumbs

½ cup goose or duck fat

DIRECTIONS:

1.     Blanch the sausage in boiling filtered water for five minutes. Drain and cut into one-inch slices. Reserve sausage. Pick the duck confit meat from the bones. Remove the lamb cubes from the lamb broth. Reduce the lamb broth to one cup. Taste, Think, Transform with sea salt if necessary.

2.     Preheat the oven to 250°F.

3.     In a large braising pan (like enamel-lined cast iron) make three layers as follows: one-third beans, two sprigs thyme, duck confit, lamb cubes, and sausage. Repeat two more times.

4.     Mix the lamb and goose or chicken broth. Taste, Think, Transform. Should not be too salty. Pour over the layered beans and meats. The broth should come one-half inch from the top. Add more broth if needed.

5.     Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Drizzle with the goose or duck fat.

6.     Bake for four to five hours until the breadcrumb crust is deep golden brown, rotating occasionally.

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7.     Remove from the oven and allow to sit for ten minutes before serving. Best served quite simply with a tossed green salad.

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Linda HierholzerENTRÉES