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stellabella

All About Cassoulet

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Ok, as suspected I did find unsmoked ham hocks at my local hispanic market (Fiesta in Houston). I bought one package for 2.99 which contained 2-3 hocks that were sliced into about 2 inch thickness. They also carry fresh pork rinds (skin with very little meat attached to it.

Now I need to make some confit and I'm pretty much ready to put it all together.

Elie

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Wednesday night, I made Cassoulet.  I took many shortcuts, and threw in whatever was in the refrigerator and needed to go.  It turned out pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.  Here's how it went:

1.  Take a leg of lamb, cut into 1" cubes, roll in flour and herbs de Provence, and brown in a big stock pot.  Reserve.  Deglaze with chicken stock and reserve the liquid.

2.  Chop coursely 2 onions, half a head of garlic, 2 shallots, 5 stalks celery, and half a pound of pancetta.  Saute.  Deglaze with a health slug of dry vermouth. 

3.  Chop 1 large and soggy tomato, and cube half a pound of leftover pork loin.  Throw these into the pot, along with the lamb and a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes and three 1-lb jars of white beans (Spanish white beans from Whole Foods).  Add a can of chicken stock and some white wine vinegar and some leftover red Languedoc wine and a large bouquet garni of fresh rosemary and parsley. 

4.  Cut in half 2 lbs of andouille sausage and add to the pot. 

5.  Once bubbling, remove the pot from the stovetop and place in the preheated oven. 

6.  Get hungry.  Wait half an hour, and eat a very very soupy  Cassoulet for dinner. 

7.  Leave  the rest in the oven, cracking the door open just a bit to facilitate evaporation.  Go to bed and turn the oven off, but leave the cassoulet in. 

8.  Get up in the morning and discover that the evaporation has finished perfectly.  Put cassoulet in the refrigerator. 

9.  Cut duck breast confit into halves, cleaning the larger bits of fat off.  Place in serving container with cassoulet and reheat. 

10.  Enjoy with a well-aged Bandol.

Lee

Excellent. I'm glad you posted this. I would have, but I didn't know what you did. (Pleased to have been part of step 10, though.)

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Should anyone wish to make cassoulet with fresh shelling beans in the future, I should clarify something. I did manage to guess correctly that 3.5 pounds of beans in the pod would equal two pounds when shelled, but this was not equivalent to 2 lbs. of dried beans. Since the fresh beans were already hydrated, they are probably roughly equivalent to beans that have soaked overnight. So for a more precise conversion, someone will have to take two pounds of dry beans, then weigh them after they've soaked.

(this is why seven people were able to polish off the cassoulet without any crises de foie).

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So I'm going to make my first cassoulet this week-end, to serve on Sunday night. I'm using Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the Art as a guide line but would like some advice and some questions answered.

First, must this be made in an earthenware pot? The one I have is not large enough, though I do have 2 old Puritan roasters: one cast iron and the other cast aluminum. Can I use one of these or should I borrow?

Are flageolets worth the price? The store I found them at doesn't have that high of turnover on their dry goods, so I can't be guaranteed how fresh they are, and they were 8 bucks for 1/2 a pound. I also live in an area where these are hard to come by.

Luckily, this shop does have a very good charcuterie department, and they are making sausage appropriate for the cassoulet (they just happen to be having a sausage tasting this week-end!), so that is taken care of. Now, do I go with duck confit? Julia says after all is said and done, the texture and flavor are very similiar to pork loin, and since duck fat is used elsewhere in the recipe, that it's not worth the trouble. What about lamb shoulder? or the pork loin? or pork confit?

I know there are numerous variations on this classic, but I'd like some input on what others have succeeded with.

And, I'd also love some wine recommendations...

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Here my thread on my Christmas Cassoulet.

For years, I used a metal pot and will now not make it in anything but clay. If you must use metal, I would stick to iron but stay away from aluminum.

You don't have to use the flageolets, considering the price, but if you consider making it again, mail-order them ahead of time. They are definitely worth it but can understand the frustration at so high a price.

I guess if you are getting to a point where you aren't using confit or flageolets, you are making what is similar to cassoulet, but not really cassoulet. It really is worth it to have the confit in it -- it isn't JUST the duck fat that makes the flavor. Mine had the confit, sausage, and three or four cuts of pork.

Lastly, as far as wine is concerned, a good hefty red is required. You need it to cut through the fat. I recommend something from Burgundy.

Good luck - and let us know how it comes out!

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Whether or not it's a "true" Cassoulet, it should be delicious.

True! I didn't mean to sound disparaging about not having the "proper" ingredients when there really are none.

(Okay, get folks together from Talouse, Languedoc, and Castelnaudary and watch folks fight about what are PROPER ingredients!)

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And Carolyn, I did not mean to imply that you were disparaging.

Phlawless -- much will be revealed in the two thread links above.

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And Carolyn, I did not mean to imply that you were disparaging.

Oh, I didn't think you were -- I just re-read my post and thought, "what the hell do I think I know anyway????"

I was going to try and look for the Houston thread to add as a reference as well and got tied up doing my "real job" so I appreciate you adding it as well.

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I read through those threads, very helpful. Any opinions about the lamb Julia recommends?

Gotta admit - I've never tried a lamb-based cassoulet. Various forms of pork and duck are all I've tried. I might add some caution about getting very fresh lamb, though. Mutton-quality lamb could add an overwhelming gamey taste that might be a tad overpowering.

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Whatever you do do not skip the Duck Confit, it's essential and SO GOOD. The other piece of advice is you need to adjust the liquid level if you use a metal instead of clay pot (I'm sure you already read that in the Houston thread though).

Let us know how it turns out.

Elie

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would the glaze affect the liquid level? i.e. more evaporation with unglazed?

Maybe Wolfert would chime in, she's the expert. But if I had to guess I would say yes: no glaze = more evaporation.

Elie

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Are flageolets worth the price? The store I found them at doesn't have that high of turnover on their dry goods, so I can't be guaranteed how fresh they are, and they were 8 bucks for 1/2 a pound. I also live in an area where these are hard to come by.

That price is insane! I get them for $2/pound at my local natural foods place. Paying $16 a pound for beans is completely counter to the spirit of the dish, which I prefer to interpret as "tasty dish of beans, meats and sausage." I saw a repeat of a Jacques Pepin show on cassoulet recently and I thought his attitude towards the dish was right on: Put on a pot of beans with a large cheesecloth satchel containing the usual aromatics plus a chunk of ham and some whole onions. Meanwhile, in a large roasting pan, roast a medium pork roast and a duck, draining fat regularly. Make a sausage with ground pork, garlic etc., form into a fat log and wrap tightly in plastic, tying the ends. Put in bean pot. When everything is done, chop/carve up the meats and veg., combine everything, top with breadcrumbs, broil. Flageolets, confit, clay vessels etc. are fine for a laugh but basically beside the point.

michael

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would the glaze affect the liquid level? i.e. more evaporation with unglazed?

Maybe Wolfert would chime in, she's the expert. But if I had to guess I would say yes: no glaze = more evaporation.

Elie

If you break the glaze from time to time in order to encourage evaporation and to get those burnished juices down into the center the final flavor will be better.

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would the glaze affect the liquid level? i.e. more evaporation with unglazed?

Maybe Wolfert would chime in, she's the expert. But if I had to guess I would say yes: no glaze = more evaporation.

Elie

If you break the glaze from time to time in order to encourage evaporation and to get those burnished juices down into the center the final flavor will be better.

I think they were referring to the glaze on the pot, wondering if there is a difference between a pot that is glazed inside vs. not glazed inside - not the crust on the cassoulet.

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you are right..

Glazing on the outside is optional, I think. I know glazing should be on the inside to keep a slow steady evaporation of moisture.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

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Honestly, if I knew how labor intensive this was going to be, I might have thought twice about it. And it's not just the prep: I've been driving around a 30 mile radius all afternoon obtaining necessary pork products (Wolfert: I decided on your cassoulet de toulouse recipe). And that's not including the duck/duck fat. Thankfully a good friend owns a restaurant and they happen to roast whole ducks a few times a week, so I was able to get all I needed from them.

I'm having a hard time finding the pork skin (in North Carolina...can you believe it??). Can I substite salt pork?

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yes, you can substitute salt pork but it would be smart to soak it overnight in water to remove the salt.

Any good cassoulet recipe is long and complicated, but please don't be intimidated, most of the steps are prepared in advance.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

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(Wolfert: I decided on your cassoulet de toulouse recipe).

That's the one I made this last Christmas -- after having made Julia's, Saveur's, D'Artagnan's, and a few others, Ms. Wolfert's is the one I'll be sticking with...

You won't regret it and I think (hope, at least), that you will THOROUGHLY enjoy it.

Do report back now, y'hear?

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I guess I should have started this last week-end...

One thing to know is that I'm a pastry chef, and breaking down whole ducks is not something I'm accustomed to; though I see them do it on the other side quite often. Not to mention, my boning knives have seen sharper times.

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I have to admit, it was effing amazing! I had never had it before, and it was much better than expected.

The only complaint I had was that it was a tad dry, I had a hard time getting a crust, and left it in a little long which caused a bit too much evaporation. But I'm so glad I didn't skimp on the ingredients, especially the flageolets.

Once I figure out how, I'll post photos.

Thanks for all your helpful advice!

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