The Cassoulet: Day One

Cassoulet has been mentioned a few times on this site, but I couldn’t tell you for sure whether I’d ever consumed it in my first 32 years.  Pop Ryan loved it, Mommy Ryan claims to have cooked it, but I have zero recollection of consuming it before our Chicago trip in September.  That meal at Maude’s was awesome, but I knew it wasn’t the authentic cassoulet that someone in the french countryside would cook over several days.

After researching a bit, I discovered that this dish is the equivalent of a French kitchen sink chili, so of course I was intrigued.  I also loved the sound of duck, pork, and sausage in one rich pile of food.

Nothing to do with the current topic, just proud of my little girls for chowing down on some homemade scrapple.  This was her second piece actually

Nothing to do with the current topic, just proud of my little girls for chowing down on some homemade scrapple.  She ripped her first piece off my breakfast and then wouldn’t leave me alone until i gave her a bigger piece.  Pretty sure she hit her organ meat threshold after this one, though

An authentic Cassoulet is a multi-day process that includes over 25 ingredients, so I’m going to break this up into a couple of posts.  I learned my lesson from the Turducken last year; too many images slow the site to a crawl and make the whole posting process utterly infuriating.  Not so coincidentally, the plan was to serve it at the same annual holiday dinner with friends that featured the Turducken last year

I wanted to approach this in a way that wasn’t too far removed from what might happen in a French countryside kitchen (read: make everything as difficult as possible for no good reason).  So, I decided to avoid pre-prepared ingredients like chicken stock, sausage, and duck confit.  Do it all myself.  I’m a freaking moron.

Friday

The process started with a thawed duck carcass I’ve had in my freezer for awhile.

The remnants of a previously frozen deboned duck, definitely not the prettiest start to a multi-day cooking event

The remnants of a previously frozen deboned duck, definitely not the prettiest start to a multi-day cooking event

After heavily seasoning the bones, meat, and skin with salt and pepper, I heated a stock pot on the stovetop with a little olive oil in the bottom.  Once the oil was hot, I threw the duck in to brown for a few minutes.  While the meat browned, I chopped up the standard carrot, celery and onion and smashed a few garlic cloves leaving them in the skin.  Everything went into the pot.

I don't think I've properly explained how much I bit off more than I could chew yet chose to make it harder for myself at every turn.  I haven't felt this overwhelmed since I chose to cook a bachelor party dinner for 20 people, which is a remarkable comparison since that started with 4 hours of sleep, 150 fresh clams, and way too many beers in my stomach before 1PM

I don’t think I’ve properly explained how much I bit off more than I could chew with this one, yet chose to make it harder for myself at every turn.  I haven’t felt this overwhelmed since I chose to cook a bachelor party dinner for 20 people, which is remarkable since that day started with 4 hours of sleep, 150 fresh clams, and way too many beers in my stomach before 1PM

Since I had a good 6 hours to cook the broth and get good flavor out of all of the ingredients, I filled the pot to near full and set to a low simmer.

Always the onions that float to the top and make your broth look like an immediate failure.  I had faith, though.  Ignorant Confidence might be the next title of this blog when I switch it up again in a few years

Always the onions that float to the top and make your broth look like an immediate failure.  I had faith, though.  Ignorant Confidence might be the next title of this blog when I switch it up again in a few years

While the broth simmered (yes Tim, you friggin jerk, I aimed to have one bubble every 30 seconds or so), I got started on preparing the duck legs for the confit process. Discovering that I could get these at the Shaws next to my office was a wonderful revelation.

These things are almost entirely skin and fat, but they're really awesome on the inside.  I feel like I am setting you up on a blind date with duck thighs or something

These things are almost entirely skin and fat, but they’re really awesome on the inside.  I feel like I am setting you up on a blind date with duck thighs or something

I referenced a few sources on how to confit, including old standbys Ruhlman and Lagasse, before generally following the cure recipe from Ruhlman since he has yet to steer me wrong.  The legs were rinsed, patted dry, given a heavy rub of salt and left to rest for 15 minutes.

While the legs rested, I prepared the other items for the cure.

IMG_1935

Welp, that’s one hell of a boring picture.  Please make sure to send the link to this blog to your friends and family and mention that I show great pictures like a peeled garlic clove and a small pile of brown crap

The clove of garlic was sliced thin and the pile of “brown crap” is a few peppercorns and whole cloves chopped/crushed together.  Pair that with some fresh bay leaves sliced into slivers.

We have two grades of Pyrex in the Ryan household, Wedding Gift and everything else.  "Everything else" is the random collection of browned, stained pyrexes we both brought to this partnership from our single lives.  Yeah, those are the ones we use for curing sh*t

We have two grades of Pyrex in the Ryan household, Extremely Clean Wedding Gifts and everything else. “Everything else” is the random collection of browned, stained Pyrexes we both brought to this partnership from our single lives.  Yeah, those are the ones I’m allowed to use for curing sh*t

The duck thighs were tightly wrapped in plastic and headed into the fridge.

After a 3-4 more hours of occasional stirring and maintaining low heat the stock was looking pretty good.

I love when stock looks like this, feels like I could keep it on a back burner on low heat for a few weeks

I love when stock looks like this, feels like I could keep it on a back burner on low heat for a few weeks.  That being said, I am sure this is not the definition of “looking pretty good” to most people

I shut the heat off of the stock and put the lid on to let it slowly cool overnight.  Final step before I went to bed was covering two pounds of dried cannellini beans with water for an overnight soak.

Big bowl o' beans

Big bowl o’ beans.  Two pounds seemed like a ton since a normal batch of momere beans is only a pound, but each of the recipes I referenced said two pounds so I went with it

And with that I headed to bed for a night of nervousness about everything flying off the rails on Saturday.  On the docket for the next post, hopefully in the next few days, is the first day of cooking the pork and beans together, grinding a toulouse-style sausage, and confit-ing the duck.

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3 thoughts on “The Cassoulet: Day One

  1. Pingback: Cleaning out my Cabinets: Smoked Hock Rice | The Pete Is On

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