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Cook-off 1--Cassoulet


Chris Amirault
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I have no comparisons to make, unfortunately, but the Great Northern beans I used worked very well, I thought. Like most things, I'd imagine that using precisely the right bean is a true benefit, a matter of deep conflict, and something that the first-time cassoulet cook is unlikely to appreciate. Cooking the beans correctly (not too long to avoid mush and loss of form; not too short to avoid crunch), however, seems crucial.

Chris Amirault

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Better late than never I guess so here's a link to mt Cassoulet recipe that I posted in the French forum last year when I was new to eGullet.

one day cassoulet Its post #17

Sorry, at that point I didn't know about this thread.

One of the reasons behind this version was that it uses ingredients that are, mostly, fairly easy to obtain in the USA, Uk, Netherlands &, of course, France.

A few notes:

1) the pot. Wolfert's ideal is great if you can get one, but a cast iron casserole or a big glazed ceramic pot works well as well. I happen to use a big green ceramic pot that I've had for years.

2) beans. I used Great Northerns in the states & use flagolets here in France. Both work well.

3) sausage. Here it's easy , I just use Toulouse sausage that I can get any where. When in the states I hade sausage patties using the recipe in Julia's original "Mastering the Art....." Pre-frying the patties then breaking the into bite sized pieces works a treat.

4) The cut up pork rind is a must to get the right consistency.

5) 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.

6) Serve with? Nothing else other than perhaps a very simple salad afterwards to clear the pallet for cheese.

Try this you'll like it. I'll be making one soon so will try to do an illusatrated version of the recipe then.

PS: I'm not the world's greatest speller or typist, thus lots a errors, but usually this gist comes through.

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I didn't have time to do the assembly and first cooking yesterday. If I'm going to do it all today, should I cook and cool it and then cook it again, or can I just go with some low and slow technique and cook it all day?

(Using Les Halles recipe.)

Tammy's Tastings

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eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I didn't have time to do the assembly and first cooking yesterday.  If I'm going to do it all today, should I cook and cool it and then cook it again, or can I just go with some low and slow technique and cook it all day?

(Using Les Halles recipe.)

Low and slow should work just fine, Tammy.

Carpe Carp: Seize that fish!

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Okay, I'm done my cassoulet making, so can report on it now.

First off, I should say that this is all ronnie_suburban's fault. I spent the night at his house last week when I was visiting Chicago, and he sent me home with some of his homemade charcuterie - a package of maple-cured bacon, and a package of Toulouse-style sausages. "Perfect," he said "for cassoulet or something like that." Hmm, I think my myself, I've always wanted to try making cassoulet. Famous last words. Fortunately I found this thread.

I decided to make cassoulet and invite a bunch of people over to eat it and celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, this was a rough week to engage in such a project - I cooked common meal for my community on Thursday (dinner for 57) and had to fill orders for 220 truffles by Sunday. So I've been a little busy. But I persevered, and managed to procure all the necessary ingredients from several different stores:

2 lbs of pork belly (although my butcher actually gave me three - any suggestions on what I should do with the pound I have leftover?) and 1 lb of pork rind

3 boar sausages

3 Toulouse sausages from Ronnie

4 legs of duck confit

2 lbs of Great Northern beans (I couldn't find anything more authentic locally, and didn't have the time to mail order)

I basically used the Bourdain/Les Halles recipe. But, as mentioned in a previous post, I was up late last night dipping and packing truffles, so while I had dutifully put the beans on to soak Friday night, I just didn't have time to get everything assembled and the first cook in on Saturday. So I wasn't sure what to do.

In the end, I cooked it low and slow for about 4 hours early in the day today, then put it out on my deck to cool for a few hours, then popped it back in the oven before serving. I didn't get a very good crust (didn't cook it long enough the second time), but otherwise I thought it turned out pretty well. I borrowed a ceramic pot from a neighbor, but it wasn't nearly big enough, so I also used an enameled cast iron pot. The consistency was slightly better from the ceramic pot.

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I was glad to have so many people over for dinner (9 adults, 3 kids), because it made a HUGE amount. Definitely a good meal for a crowd. I served it with a 2001 Domaine de la Tourade Font des Aieux Gigondas, which I thought worked pretty well - it had enough oomph to cut through the richness and the fat.

Thanks for all the help! It was a fun experiment. I don't know if I'd make it again - it was a lot work, and since I bought confit rather than made my own, expensive too. But if I'm ever called upon to make authentic French cassoulet, I'll know I'm up for the challenge! (And next time I'll pick a better week to do it.)

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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It looks lovely, Tammy! I only make it once a year myself - usually around the holidays when I have an 'open house' and invite people just to stop by for a visit. The cassoulet holds up well for an all day-type of service and always seems very festive.

Pretty fascinating how the clay pot seems to make the beans more tender, huh?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have made confit before, but this is my first time making cassoulet. Everyone in this fantastic thread keeps mentioning pork rind or pork belly, but several recipes I have also mention salt pork, slab bacon, pancetta, or ham hocks. Question: does the smokiness of the bacon or hocks detract from the final product? Would they be too strong?

I also purchased navy beans because they were the only ones available at the local Whole Foods. Has anyone used them for cassoulet?

Many thanks,

Scott

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit. -Oscar Wilde
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In re the pork substitutes, my concern would be less about the smoke -- it would add a dimension that would recall, I'd think, the ancient roots of the wood-oven cooking -- but the salt.

Ah, so the salt pork would definitely be a bad thing. One problem I have here is the the pork rind and belly is low-quality - we are near a Smithfield Products farm and I've cooked with both before - while the Salt Pork is Niman Ranch, from Whole Foods. The smoked ham hocks are easy to find in the stores, but they are also probably salted before smoked.

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit. -Oscar Wilde
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Hey tell me if this is out there but.... I had the idea to make a cassoulet Carpaccio. I would take fava and cannelinni beans and pound them thin. I would serve it with duck confit terrine, pancetta chips, confit cherry tomatoes, and demi glace gelee. It would be a whole new spin to the everyday rich baked bean dish while still staying true to its ingredients. Let me know what you think about that.

Oh wait! before i get too excited with that idea...has anyone heard of something like that before??

Visit the TestKitchen

Edited by Rocklobster (log)
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Hey tell me if this is out there but.... I had the idea to make a cassoulet Carpaccio. I would take fava and cannelinni beans and pound them thin. I would serve it with duck confit terrine, pancetta chips, confit cherry tomatoes, and demi glace gelee. It would be a whole new spin to the everyday rich baked bean dish while still staying true to its ingredients. Let me know what you think about that.

Oh wait! before i get too excited with that idea...has anyone heard of something like that before??

Visit the TestKitchen

You're going to pound beans thin :huh: ? My bs meter must be down, are you kidding? The rest of it sounds intriguing though . . .

I have not heard of anything like that for cassoulet. It sounds like you are not going to cook them together to blend the flavors?

Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit. -Oscar Wilde
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Hey tell me if this is out there but.... I had the idea to make a cassoulet Carpaccio. I would take fava and cannelinni beans and pound them thin. I would serve it with duck confit terrine, pancetta chips, confit cherry tomatoes, and demi glace gelee. It would be a whole new spin to the everyday rich baked bean dish while still staying true to its ingredients. Let me know what you think about that.

Oh wait! before i get too excited with that idea...has anyone heard of something like that before??

Visit the TestKitchen

You're going to pound beans thin :huh: ? My bs meter must be down, are you kidding? The rest of it sounds intriguing though . . .

I have not heard of anything like that for cassoulet. It sounds like you are not going to cook them together to blend the flavors?

Yup I would cook the beans until they are tender and cool them. Then place them between plastic wrap and pound it thin. Then trim them to a desired shape and garnish with the other stuff i mentioned. No BS here. Visit Here to see how the method i descibed works(insert beans for avocado).

Visit the TestKitchen

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Would the beans stick together enough to handle? It seems like the "patties" would be quite delicate. Aside from that, your idea sounds very nice. Have you considered adding fresh herbs or other ingredients to the beans?

eta Hm. Perhaps brown the bean patties in duck fat to create a nice crust? Is a deconstructed cassoulet your aim?

Edited by petite tête de chou (log)

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

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  • 4 weeks later...

gallery_34671_2649_68466.jpg

My first cassoulet. Recipe was Paula Wolfert's from the Cooking of Southwest France. I made the duck confit about 1 week ago. The sausage was a purchased garlic sausage. For the beans I used cannellini. The beans held together quite well. I didn't have any walnut oil to finish it with, priced it out and wasn't prepared to pay $17 for a little can of oil. Next time I see it on sale at Winners I'll pick up a can. I'm sure I'll still have cassoulet around by then. I had it for dinner last night and tonight and I fed it to my father tonight as well. Lunch tomorrow I think, and dad took home enough leftovers for 2 meals. There is still plenty.

The kid absolutely loves it.

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How did the cannellini beans hold up?

Not too bad at all (of course I have nothing to compare them to). They were mostly whole when it was done.

The bean skin is not tough.

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I'm planning to make cassoulet for New Years, and I'm gearing up. I've managed to wheedle the aforementioned cassole from Clay Coyote Pottery based on the one that Paula Wolfert has on the cover of Cooking of Southwest France from my folks for Christmas, and I've just ordered some flageolet beans from our own Rancho Gordo. I think I'm going to make some Toulouse sausages from CSW next weekend too, while I'm getting a few duck legs confiting.

Phew.

So a question. What are some other things to serve with this dish? I know, I know, a meal in itself, but I've got guests and don't want merely to slap down the cassoulet. Any salad ideas? Sides?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Makes sense.

I got the duck broken down and made stock, duck ham, lots of fat, and, eventually, confit. I had to add a bit of smoked turkey fat to the duck fat, but that seems to have added a great new dimension to the confit. I overcooked it a bit -- that is to say, I didn't undercook it a bit, in preparation for the additional cooking in the cassoulet.

Beans on the way.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Oh wait! before i get too excited with that idea...has anyone heard of something like that before??

Mate, a deconstructed cassoulet has been done, spectacularly well, but don't let that stop you. If you're interested, Chef Shannon Bennett of Vue du Monde here in Melbourne has (or had; now 1 1/2 years since I had it) on the menu a cassoulet/vol au vent, which was the highlight of that meal for me.

my notes included: " (6th dish of the 8 course meal was a) "cassoulet/vol au vent", on top of a white-bean puree; there was a thin but tasty bit of smoky pork belly on top, sitting next to that was a cylinder of duck confit, then a cylinder of seared duck breast and then a cylindrical duck sausage, all lined up. A stand-out for me, absolutely the highlight."

Quite different from what you're proposing, if that's your concern. Surely various ideas on the theme have been done around the world. But why not give it a crack, see how you go... would love to see some pics if you attempt it.

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Phew.

So a question. What are some other things to serve with this dish? I know, I know, a meal in itself, but I've got guests and don't want merely to slap down the cassoulet. Any salad ideas? Sides?

1) Encourage your guests to hike 10 miles before the meal.

2) A light fish mousse with toast is a good starter

3) Nothing with the casoulette.

4) a crisp Caesar salad (without the croutons.)

5) Cheese if everyone's up to it. If in doubt skip.

6) A grand marinier soufflé with sauce.

After this you fast for 3 days while you enjoy your satiated feeling of pure bliss.

Enjoy! Think I'm making one the evening before New Year's eve.

edited to correct spelling.

Edited by Dave Hatfield (log)
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Chris,

Dave's menu selection is spot on.... We served the Tolousian Cassoulet two weeks ago to raves. (Paula Wolfert was kind enough to email a correction on the sausage recipe that appeared in the second edition to her book.)

Our menu included mesclun greens, walnuts and bacon with a walnut/shallot vinaigrette after the cassoulet. Dessert consisted of home made vanilla custard with my orangecello topped with home made lemon gelato. The contrast of the custard with a 20% butterfat and the 3.8% butterfat gelato was wonderful.

Earlier somebody recommended Corbieres, Bergerac and Cahors. We served all of these and they were perfect with the cassoulet. We served malbec rose for white wine drinkers.

A wonderful meal thanks to Paula Wolfert.

Our friends couldn't rave enough about the tarbais beans. No mush, no bean skins and no flatulence. My wife forbid me from mentioning some of the ingredients like pork skin. Surfasonline had a really good price for excellent tarbais beans.

Tim

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I'm leaning toward a frisee salad and fried egg with lardon -- a stand-by that I can pull off without too much extra effort. And I decided I couldn't break the bank for the tarbais beans, so got some flageolet beans from Steve at Rancho Gordo. I admit to a twinge of envy, however. :hmmm:

ETA: Just put up the diced pork, some homemade bacon, garlic, quatre epices, etc. for the slightly tweaked Toulouse sausages.

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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