Thursday, February 19, 2009

Weekend Cooking Project - Cassoulet

Cassoulet, while essentially just being French pork and beans, is one of my most favorite stews of all time... and I have some experience with meat and bean based dishes. Some of my fondness for it may stem from the fact that I had never heard of it before I started trying to learn to cook, and it was one of my first really successful attempts that made the whole venture seem possibly worthwhile. That first version I made was actually a simplified recipe from Cook's (big surprise,eh?) that substituted chicken thighs for the more exotic, but traditional, duck confit (not something you can find at Shaws). It's an excellent recipe, and I highly recommend giving it a shot... you can find it in either The New Best Recipe or on their website if you have a subscription. However, I'm more hardcore than freakin' chicken thighs so I won't be executing that version... I'm all about the duck confit these days. I've got two big tubs of duck fat in the fridge (that Anna is deeply suspicious of) and a pound of the hard to find flageolet bean (Christina's Spice & Specialty Foods) ready to go... so just need to make a trip to Savenor's for the duck legs and whatever other meat products I'm putting in the pot.

Last time I made cassoulet, I used the more traditional recipe from Cook's international cookbook... but it made waaaaaaaay too much for 1 person to eat, even over a week... so I was considering halving it or something until I found this recipe, which seems absolutely perfect. Things I like about it relative to the Cook's version? 4 duck legs instead of 6... pan frying the confit and taking the meat off the bone... that's so obvious I can't believe I didn't think of it. You obviously(well maybe it's not so obvious) don't need to sear the confit since it's certainly cooked, but it seems like a good idea for flavor... and let me tell you, dug legs are a rather large and unwieldy... getting the meat off the bone is a damn good idea. I'm also intrigued by the ham hocks... not sure whether I'll be able to find them since I've never looked before, but it's worth a shot. Despite the excellent first impression of the recipe, I'll still compare it to the two Cook's recipe to see if there are any things I want to do differently... but it probably won't change my Savenor's shopping list much.

Photo by flickr user avlxyz used under a Creative Commons license