Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cassoulet

This is the first cassoulet I have ever made, and apart from the fact that it was totally delicious, it also produced meals for about three days. I love a few left overs for lunch the next day, or a meal that turns into something else, or gives you stock or fat to flavour your next meal, it feels good to reuse everything... It saves money, reduces waste and I like the idea of using every scrap possible of a duck or a piece of meat, to really put the little fellas to good purpose...

A cassoulet is a stew of sorts, a rich slow cooked French casserole, with roast or confit duck, sausages, bacon, lovely stock full of herbs and tomatoes and lots of white beans, all topped with crispy, golden baked breadcrumbs. So there was the first cassoulet evening, in all it's splendour, with rich duck and crispy breadcrumbs and a bottle of young French red wine. Then the remains travelled all the way to the Lake District to be heated through with new sausages, fresh bread for dipping and crispy green salad. Finally some came home with us again and made a lovely beany soupy lunch. A well travelled cassoulet indeed...

In the French peasant origins of the dish they used to deglaze the pot from the previous cassoulet as a base for the next one, and so on and so on, which led to stories of one original cassoulet being extended for years and years, mine just lasted a weekend... It is a dish to be made in quantity really, this will feed four or more people, just add more duck if you have more people...



I started with a pot of duck stock made from the bones of the Roast Duck with Chestnut, Chorizo and Cabbage... and with Elizabeth David... I've been carrying her book around with me lately. Sometimes to work so I can look up recipes at lunchtime, over to the Lakes to read in depth the bits I haven’t gone through before, looking for new and interesting methods and recipes. I am aware that this is not normal behaviour, constantly travelling around with recipe books... and I have had a few funny looks as people get into my car to find little book collections in the foot-well, but hey...

Start with a pan for the stock, you will need a larger pan for the whole cassoulet which will go in the oven, but start with the stock pan on the hob and heat a large splash of olive oil in it. Add two thinly sliced large onions and cook until they are soft, about ten minutes, then add some chopped smoked streaky bacon, about 6 slices cut into smaller pieces, and continue to cook until it is all golden and sticky.
Pour in the stock, I used about 500ml of duck stock, you can use chicken stock, add two tomatoes chopped into pieces, four crushed cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, some sprigs of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf and bring to a slow simmer. Leave it to simmer away for about 20 minutes. I think this is the tastiest stock I have ever made by the way... I kept on having sneaky spoonfuls all the way through...


Most cassoulet's use confit duck legs, but Elizabeth does say that to use fresh duck or goose if confit isn’t an option, which it wasn't, but it will need to be half roasted. So while the stock was simmering I put a whole duck in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 220°C. Then took it out to rest and cool enough to cut up.


You will need a big oven proof type pot for the cassoulet. Rub the inside of it all over with raw garlic to begin with. Then add about 6 good quality raw pork sausages cut in half, I also added about 4 teaspoons of duck fat from a previous roasting... You could substitute with lard or dripping... Then the duck, cut into pieces. My knives are really not very effective so we got as far as cutting it in half, it would be much better into quarters or sixths as it was really pretty difficult to eat a bowl of stew with half a duck sitting in it!

Pour two tins of drained haricot beans over the top of all of the meat and then pour the stock and all its contents over the top of everything. Bring this all to the boil on the hob and then sprinkle a few handfuls of white bread crumbs over the top. I used a stale sour dough wizzed up in the food processor until it was a fine crumb.



Then place the whole cassoulet in a low oven, about 160°C, for an hour. The stock will soak into the meat and the beans and a lovely golden crust will form over the top. Delicious... Just serve it as it is, it doesn’t need any help at all. It is rich and meaty with beautifully flavoured stock and beans, it is one of my favourite things I have cooked, really lovely... I am going to get to grips with some confit soon and make it again with confit duck legs...

I found a little tip in Elizabeth David's soup section that advised heating up the left over beans and stock and pounding them through a sieve, reheating this purée with a little milk and adding pieces of cooked sausage. It is just as good reheated in its stew form with new cooked sausages, or as a simple beans stew with crusty bread. It's just good all round really...


3 comments:

  1. I am so impressed that you made a REAL cassoulet with duck and all the fixins. It looks amazing.
    I love cassoulet, but usually cheat a little a skimp on some of the goodies;)
    -Erin

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  2. Thanks. It was actually much easier than I imagined! I made it again this weekend, although it wasn't quite as good as the first one...
    Anna x

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  3. These look fantastic! What an awesome idea I can’t wait to try this!

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