Cassoulet Day One

I had my first experience cassoulet at work.  Cannellini beans, pork sausages, duck confit.  It was one of the more life changing experiences I have had as far as food goes.  However, duck legs are out of my budget.  I bought the Les Halles cookbook specifically for the cassoulet recipe.  Obviously, I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain, and have made several recipes from the book, but the NOT cassoulet!  The poulet basquaise I made for Amy’s birthday is from the book.  I adapt the recipe for vichyssoise at work, and it is fantastic.

Cassoulet is a bean stew.  There’s really not a lot to it.  A little mirepoix, beans, duck, pork, stock, and some herbs.  Where I get into trouble is the duck, and the pork.  Although I enjoy duck and pork Amy does not, at all.  I found a recipe that I think I can make work, and I’m going to substitute what I can afford and what she’ll eat and go from there.

Since we are cooking with beans I am starting this early.  Cassoulet will be tomorrow’s dinner.

When you have a project like this the best way to handle it is to break it into small steps.  For example, if I was going to have duck confit as part of the dish I would have rubbed it with salt, and let it cure overnight in the fridge, yesterday.  Today I would have cooked the confit.  Confit is essentially cooking the legs by poaching them in a fat.  In this case you would use duck fat, although you could use canola oil in addition to the duck fat that would come out of the legs.  This is kind of cheating, but it will save you money buying duck fat or eating enough duck that you can render and save enough fat to cover the legs that you have.  Confit is a long, slow cooking process, and is not frying. I am going to use chicken legs, and essentially braise them in the cassoulet, not quite traditional, but I’m on a budget, and cooking for someone who found the dish interesting, and doesn’t like duck or pork. (I’ve made peace with this, most of the time.)  I do feel a bit conflicted about this, but like I said budget is an issue.  I may pick up some turkey sausage tomorrow to at least move things in a little more traditional direction.

Today’s task is to rinse and soak the cannellini beans.  Cannellinis are one of the more traditional beans used in the cassoulet recipes I have seen. (The Les Halles cookbook calls for Tarbais beans, but they are outrageously expensive! [$16-21/pound!])  Realistically, I could break down the chicken, and chop all of the veggies tonight as well.  I’m not quite feeling that motivated though.  That will be taken care of tomorrow some time.

Anyway, stick with me, and I think you will enjoy this quite a bit.  The recipe I am using is a bit lighter, and includes more vegetables.  This is probably more in line with how the dish would have been made originally.  In a restaurant more meat means that you can charge more, and also creates the impression of better value.  This is a dish that would have been made by people who needed a hearty, cheap meal.  Meat, would have been in it, but not tons of it.  So, in some ways we’re going to go back to that.

If you’d like to see how this dish came out, Day Two awaits!

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