Long weekend in February = all day cooking cassoulet. The kitchen is warm, and the entire house smells delicious. The fruit of my labors was not bad, although for far less time and a bit of annoyance (dealing the the institution that is the Bistrot du Coin), I can have a tastier version with far less fuss.
I dug up the Julia Child recipe my mother-in-law sent me years ago – it has lots of references to rendered fats. Okay, like I collect fats from roasts or what-not and reserve them … I took the recipe and cut the portions in half, then made a few adjustments.
1 – 1 1/2 lb of boned pork loin, marinated with coffee grounds and five spice powder overnight, roasted at 450 for 15 minutes, then at 250 for an hour. Let cool, then cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks.
Add 2 1/2 cups dry white beans to 2 1/2 quarts rapidly boiling water and bring back to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let beans soak in water for 1 hour where they will continue cooking. The cooking should proceed as soon as possible after the soaking is completed.
Cut up 1/2 lb of cured pork rind into small triangles 1/4 inches wide and drop into 1/2 quart of cold water, bring to a boil, drain and rinse, repeat. Simmer for 30 minutes and set saucepan aside.
Add the following ingredients to the soaked beans:
- 1/2 chunk of fresh, unsalted, unsmoked lean bacon
- 1 cup sliced onions
- pork rink and cooking liquid
- large herb bouquet tied in cheesecloth: 6-8 large parsley sprigs, 4 unpeeled cloves garlic, 2 anise seed cloves, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb polish sausage, whole
Bring to a simmer, after 30 minutes, remove sausage, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices and set aside. Simmer remainder of mixture for another hour.
Cut 1 lb of boned lamb shoulder into 2 inch cubes. Pour 1/16 inch of olive oil into a casserole and heat until almost smoking. Brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, on all sides. Set meat aside. Brown the bones and add to the meat. Lower heat and brown 1 large minced onion for 5 minutes.
Return bones and lamb to casserole. Add 4 cloves mashed garlic, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 cup vodka (yes vodka, not white wine or vermouth), 2 cups beef stock. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours on the stove. Then remove the meat, discard bones and bay leaf.
Pour cooked and drained beans into lamb cooking juices, stir in any juices from roast pork. Add bean cooking liquid as needed to cover the beans.
Final assembly in enameled cast iron casserole (note enameled = your pot will not be ruined).
Start with a layer of beans to cover the bottom, add chunks of roast port and sausage, layer with beans and continue. End with layer of beans. Top with mixture of 1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Bake at 375. When the top has crusted lightly, break crust and baste with bean juices, repeat until crust forms again, but leave final crust in tact. After about 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350, bake for another 45 minutes to an hour.
We paired the cassoulet with a robust Rhone, a Gigondas, a hearty wine for a cold winter day … Then spent another hour cleaning up after the construction (!)