Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
I made a few changes from the Bourdain/Rhulman recipe, which some would call sacreligious since this has been toted as “the best cassoulet recipe outside of France”. But hey, I was making it, and that is what cooking is all about, to breath a little bit of you into everything you make. Firstly, I used chicken and not duck. Apparently Kansas City is quite bare of duck. Secondly, I used a combination of bacon grease and clarified butter during my confiting. I searched high and low for duck fat, in all kinds of crazy places around the city, only to learn two weeks later that you could buy a jar at Williams-Sonoma. Thirdly, I threw out the pork rind and belly from the recipe (because, ew, pork belly?) and instead used a deliciously marbeled boston butt pork roast and some extra thick cut, hormone free, free-range, smoked, drool-worthy bacon. I couldn’t find any traditional “french” sausages here, so I opted for some locally made apple chicken sausages. And lastly, I’m a big “bite sized” person. I prefer chicken stips to chicken breasts. Also, I didn’t like the idea of fighting over the chicken legs, the sausages, and that giant roast at the bottom. So I sliced, pulled, and made everything into perfect sized pieces. I think this gave it more of a “stew” appearance, and I liked it.
The members of the Daring Cooks really pulled out all the stops this month, and everyone did a fantastic job! Every single cassoulet look absolutely mouthwatering, and everyone had a slightly different take on how to prepare their’s – from different meats, to different herbs used, they are all fantastic, and I you you should check out the Daring Cooks Blog Roll to see (and hopefully try) them all!
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 – 8 (depending on how big your servings are! :))
If you can’t find duck fat, you may substitute any other fat that you want, i.e. bacon grease, lard, butter, olive oil, etc.
Pork rind may be substituted with slab bacon or you can purchase salt pork and cut off the rind.
sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove
1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.
6. Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. Think of someone you hate when you do it.
5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs
1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside. (this stuff, by the way, is pure heaven. I could eat this on toast. Oh, skip the toast, just use a spoon. Maybe even bath in it….)
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don’t get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn’t have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.