33 days till departure! In anticipation of all the fine food I hope to find on the continent I made a dish yesterday that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now, Cassoulet. I came accross this meal on twitter (conincidently where I discover most things) and then read about it on the III Bean blog. It’s a rich, slow cooked bean stew. Usually made with pork, sausage, duck, goose, sometimes mutton and finished with a bread crumb crust.
I couldn’t help but fall in love with it’s story… Legend has it that during the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince, Edward the Prince of Wales, in 1355 the besieged townspeople gathered their remaining food to create a big stew cooked in a cauldron. Well fed the French rode out and broke the seige sending the English back to the channel! Now this might not be accurate but it’s just so romatic that I’m happy to be swept up in the story.
Settling on a recipe to work from is difficult, not because they’re hard to find… but simply because of the volume of variations. I ended up roughly following a few of the recipes in Larousse Gastronomique as well as taking advice from this SBS recipe. Special thanks to @bakeduprising for pointing me in the right direction.
So I guess you could say this was my own special Cassoulet based on some loose wisdom and the ingredients I could get my hands on… I figured this was in the spirit of things given the history. I ended up with haricot beans, confit duck legs & duck fat, pork sausage and pork rashers along with the usual suspects; garlic, onion, tomato, carrot, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, oregano, cloves etc. I heard that brioche makes the best crust but had a baguette of local sourdough and figured that would do the trick.
The first step is to soak the haricot beans overnight, then you wake up nice and early the next day because you’ve got lots of work to do! Move the beans along a bit by boiling them for an hour in salted water. Drain the beans and then back into boiling water with the pork, some garlic and the carrot. Brown the duck confit along with a few tablespoons of duck fat and a couple peeled tomatoes and then throw that all into the pot too. Chuck in one or two of your sausages and a few onions cut in half with cloves pressed into the onions, this helps you find the cloves later on… don’t want someone getting a nasty mouth full of clove. A bouquet garni goes in at this stage too, I used fresh thyme, parsley, oregano and bay leaves. Leave that to cook slowly for a couple hours.
Have a glass of wine and perhaps a little nap… then scatter bread crumbs over the top of the stew, drizzle a bit more duck fat all over if you can handle it and put the whole thing into a slow oven for a few more hours. C’est bon! You should have a beautiful, moist stew with a golden crunchy crust. It’s so rich and filling, like a big warm hug that starts in your mouth and then just wraps you up! I made this on a coolish day coming out of summer. I can only imagine how good the experience must be in the cold and the wet.
Having finally made cassoulet I’m really excited about getting over to France and finding out how much better the real thing is…. not too mention the variations all over the south-west (Toulouse, Carcassonne etc).
Big thanks to @LynetteP for lending my her Le Creuset 28cm stew pot!