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Cook-off 1--Cassoulet


Chris Amirault
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When I posted my cassoulete recipe with pictures earlier in this thread I never did

Note that I like to add tomato to my cassoulete. Many including Paula Wolfert don't. In my case I just add a few good dollops of tomato paste. I like the colour and the extra slight amount of sweetness the tomato adds. However, that's why cassoulete is so much fun - everyone has their own variation of it!

Hi Dave,

Your cassoulete looks fantastic!

I've published more than a half- dozen recipes for cassoulet/cassoulete, and you are right, sometimes I don't include tomatoes. The fava bean cassoulet doesn't include them, but it's a recipe that predates the appearance of the tomato in Europe.

In the updated version of the Cooking of SWF, the Toulouse cassoulet does include one plump tomato. You can see an abridged version of that recipe here :

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/toulouse-style-cassoulet

Paula Thanks for the kind words.

It would be fun, but probably almost impossible to try & trace where tomatoes are or are not used in cassoulete on a geographic basis.

Locally, just on the edge of the Rouergue, they don't seem to use them. As your Toulousien recipe shows they so use some tomato, but less than other places. In my experience the cassoulete down around Montpillier seems to be the most tomato rich.

The above is, of course, very unscientific and only based upon my personal experiences. Got a lot of enjoyment out of gaining that experience though. :biggrin:

jeniac42 - I agree with Chris. Sounds like a good plan to me. I'm looking forward to the results & the pics.

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Jen

This dish was created by French peasants to use leftovers most likely.

We are not French peasants, our leftovers include chicken legs, venison sausage and sliced rare leg of lamb. So that is what we put in cassoulet.

Use a nice tart salad dressing and enjoy

Tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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The cassoulet bits and bobs are working now - got the meat browning as I work.

One thing I wonder - is my crock pot liner oven-safe? That way I could just transfer it from the crock cooker to the oven. It seems like it ought to be at such low temps. It's just glazed ceramic. Hmm. (The cooker is so old the manual was lost owners ago.)

And oh, it smells good in here.

Jennie

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Most crockpot inserts are made of stoneware and are oven-safe.

I think you will get the best glazing on top of the beans in the oven, so by all means you should place it in the oven..

The cassoulet bits and bobs are working now - got the meat browning as I work.

One thing I wonder - is my crock pot liner oven-safe?  That way I could just transfer it from the crock cooker to the oven.  It seems like it ought to be at such low temps.  It's just glazed ceramic.  Hmm.  (The cooker is so old the manual was lost owners ago.)

And oh, it smells good in here.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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OK, here is my progress so far. The cassoulet has been on the low setting in the crock pot base since about 10:30am. You guys said lots of pictures.

First, we have my workspace before I made a mess out of it. The blue speckly enameled pot is the chicken stock I made last night and kept in the outdoor refrigerator (aka the balcony); crock pot; no-knead bread in square plastic container; Clovis le Sourdough Starter in mason jar.

gallery_7863_3000_48612.jpg

Next, the two chicken legs (from the stock-making) and cubes of fresh pork belly, rind removed, browning in some chicken fat:

gallery_7863_3000_114397.jpg

All browned. You can spot the pork rind to the left of the browned meat:

gallery_7863_3000_74675.jpg

Next, browning the venison sausage. I should have made smaller patties to develop more brown crust, but I was kind of hurrying here. The sausage was made with mostly venison, some ground pork belly, a little bread crumbage, vermouth, sage, savory, salt, pepper, and I think that's it. It has a good flavor, texture's a little crumbly though.

gallery_7863_3000_52573.jpg

The mirepoix minus celery, after sweating and getting slightly browned:

gallery_7863_3000_38866.jpg

The beans mixed with the onion, carrot, savory, tarragon, cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, juniper berries:

gallery_7863_3000_167512.jpg

Layered with the shredded chicken meat:

gallery_7863_3000_82293.jpg

The pork belly and sausage (of which there is rather a lot):

gallery_7863_3000_145301.jpg

Ready to go in the crock cooker, with chicken stock, some water, a couple bay leaves, most of a head of garlic, and the chicken leg bones:

gallery_7863_3000_131794.jpg

I've realized while posting this that I left out the tomato paste I meant to add. I'm going to go throw it in there now and see if I can manage to distribute it without getting everything all mushed up. It smells like heaven in here, it really does.

Jennie

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WOW!!! I'm salivating even though I just got through cooking myself. I think you're going to have one delicious cassoulete.

I also think you could start a whole new trend of wonderful non- traditional cassoulete.

Now - when its finished you flash freeze a nice portion, call FedEx for a super urgent delivery & dispatch it to rural France.

Yummmy. :rolleyes:

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OK, the cassoulet was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Considering the effort (not really that much, considering) and the cost (fairly minimal), it's something I'll have to make again. However, I hope it freezes edibly - there's a ton of it. I'm having surgery on March 1 and will be incapacitated in the kitchen for a little while, so I'm hoping to have some leftovers.

After six hours on the crock pot's Low setting, I removed the lid and transferred the cassoulet-to-be into a 275F oven.

gallery_7863_3000_87330.jpg

After an hour in the oven, it had developed a nice glaze on top. I picked out the head of garlic and the chicken bones; the bones were discarded and the garlic went into foil - I roasted it to spread on the bread. I crumbed up some bread from the Bread Graveyard (aka a pan with old bread left on it to dry and be used for stuff like this), using one onion roll, some baguette, and a little wheat bread, and pushed it onto the top. (not pictured)

gallery_7863_3000_98164.jpg

I left it in the oven at 275F for approximately two more hours (waiting on Zack to get home from work). It made the house smell really, really good. When I took it out, it looked like this:

gallery_7863_3000_114889.jpg

And plated. The salad is just green leaf lettuce tossed first with a little olive oil, then rather a lot of red wine vinegar, a bit of salt, and some pepper. Very tart, cut the richness of the cassoulet nicely. The bread is the minimalist no-knead, which was quite chewy.

gallery_7863_3000_80711.jpg

I could eat this again right now. I recommend the crock pot method, though never having tried the traditional, I can't give a comparison. It made it pretty easy; really no more difficult than making any chili or meat-based pasta sauce in the end. Zack loved it, too.

Jennie

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The remainder of the cassoulet was FoodSaver-vacuum sealed and tossed into the freezer. I used a little bit of it for my favorite form of leftover soup, which is: Add some sauerkraut and chicken stock, and cook. It worked really well for this.

I'd have liked to have had more beans, too. I used 10.5oz by weight of Great Northerns (dried) - next time will up the bean ratio.

Jennie

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I have two questions:

1. Anthony's receipe calls for Pork Rind. I recently bought a pork belly, cut it in half and made bacon and pancetta. For the bacon half, I cured the belly with the skin on and smoked it. I then cut the skin off (which is both cured and smoked) and froze it. For the other half, I cut the skin (which was neither cured or smoked) off the belly and also froze it. Which should I use for the pork rind, the smoked and cured skin or the raw skin which I cut off the belly?

2. The receipe also calls for pork belly. As part of my excursion into pork belly, I cut off some pieces to square it up and cured it to make salt pork. Can I use this in place of pork belly, and would you boil it first to remove some of the salt.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Thanks.

And as far as the salt pork belly go's in substitute for the "raw" pork belly, you recommend parboiling to remove some of the salt?  Also, should I remove the skin from it?

Yes, parboil it I would say, and leave the skin on unless the recipe tells you otherwise.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thanks.

And as far as the salt pork belly go's in substitute for the "raw" pork belly, you recommend parboiling to remove some of the salt?  Also, should I remove the skin from it?

Parboil for sure. In fact maybe twice depending upon how salty it is. Don't remove the skin, but after parboiling cut the skin in small bits (see recipe on my blog for a picture of this.) and boil again for maybe 15-20 minutes. This way the skin will totally melt into the cassoulete, but give the texture you want.

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Thanks for all the information. One more question (and it might be splitting hairs, but I figure thats what the forum is for).

Should I take the skin off the duck confit, or leave it on? I am afraid it wont crisp up in the Cassoulet.

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It's not going to crisp up, but it might break down nicely if you mince it. Of course, you could take it off and crisp it up for your own self. :wink:

Thanks Chris! So you think I should take off the bone, and shred or add legs bone and all minus the skin?

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I think that boning the duck meat makes for a more enjoyable eating experience, but that's your call. I would avoid shredding, however; it's nice to get chunks of the confit, not bits, and you'll be jostling them as you cook and mix anyway.

Chris Amirault

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Well, I made my first cassoulet this weekend (from Saveur Magazine cookbook), and, while it was out of this world, I really think it would be easier to get on a plane and fly to France.

I don't have that recipe, but honestly, the cassoulet I made, while maybe not authentic, was heaven on a plate and really not at all difficult. So if anyone is intimidated by cassoulet, I think what I made is a reasonable facsimile and very delicious.

Jennie

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Anybody care to make any wine recomendations to go with this dish?

Dave Hatfield had the following excellent recommendations.

"Wine. My personal preference is for a really good Cahors. Its strong enought to stand up. Corbieres or a Bergerac come next. The Bordeaux & Burgandies are wasted when drunk with a dish as strongly flovoured as this; in my opinion anyway."

Tim

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Well, I made my first cassoulet this weekend (from Saveur Magazine cookbook), and, while it was out of this world, I really think it would be easier to get on a plane and fly to France.

I don't have that recipe, but honestly, the cassoulet I made, while maybe not authentic, was heaven on a plate and really not at all difficult. So if anyone is intimidated by cassoulet, I think what I made is a reasonable facsimile and very delicious.

Agree with jeniac42. Not difficult, just lots of simple steps.

In all due modesty you might like to try my recipe in Recipe Gullet

Or for a fully illustrated version go to my blog below.

Take you time & do it in stages.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Made my first Cassoulet over the previous weekend. It came out o.k. If I was to change anything, I would use a little less pork belly and something with more meat. The flavor was great, but there was a little too much fat (it didnt all melt off).

In any event, here is a suggestion for the leftovers. Since I had a few containers of duck stock in the freezer (a result of making confit out of two ducks) I ended up making soup. I diced up a leak (which was begging to be used in my refrigerator as it was starting to wilt) a couple of carotts and some celery) and sauted in a little duck fat, added the duck stock and left over confit, and presto...Cassoulet soup (or perhaps duck soup???)

It turned out great.

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