Tag Archives: cassoulet

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charcutepalooza december challenge. showing off.


This is it. The last challenge. It’s time to show us what you’ve learned. You’ve had a year of experimenting and practice. You’ve had the benefit of this exceptionally creative and daring Charcutepalooza community. And ‘tis the season.

What better reason to gather your friends and family than a celebration of all things charcuterie? It’s exciting to serve up these homemade lovelies. No reason not to crow a little. You’ve earned it.

Cassoulet is a natural. Choucroute garnie, as well. Perhaps Schweinshaxe? Or a long simmered Italian “Sunday Gravy?” A tapas offering? What about dim sum? We’ve looked cross culturally for so much of the year, the possibilities seem endless with a little internet research and a dollop of imagination.

Create a menu, a meal, a dish, a platter. We challenge you to create a celebration.

Use at least three items (Apprentice Challenge) or four items (Charcutiere Challenge) from the following list.

•Smoke, cure, or brine a whole cut of meat, poultry or fish (for instance, ham, duck proscuitto, roulades, pastrami, smoked salmon)
•Dried, cured sausage (for instance, soppresata, saucisson sec, salami, landjager, chorizo)
•Pork belly, any preparation (for instance, bacon, pancetta, ventreche, red cooked, braised)
•Sausage (for instance, bulk, in casings, smoked, emulsified)
•Pate, terrine, or mousseline, en croute, if you wish
•Rillettes or confit

Your deadline is December 6, 2011. Yes, this is different than the date first announced, for a very good reason – the details are revealed at the end of this post.

Good luck and have fun. We can’t wait to see what you do.

It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.

I love my friend Katrin. She has been my BFF for many many years. She’s witty and warm, with a huge heart. Her Martha’s Vineyard home, circa 1680, the second oldest home on the island, sports low hanging doorways and wonky windows. This wonderland has been the site for a gathering of ‘girls’ for the last fourteen years. Some years there are over a dozen of us, and some years, it’s just six. But every year, this weekend recharges my spirit.

So when I set about planning the final challenge for this extraordinary Year of Meat, Martha’s Vineyard seemed the perfect spot. I wanted to share a Camont recipe for cassoulet and all the new knowledge from Girls Meat Camp with these dear friends. Katrin’s response? “Cassoulet? I’m not a fan. It’s just a fancy name for franks and beans.” I was determined to change her mind.

Start with the Best

To prepare, I engaged in some crazy suitcase packing, again. Noix de jambon, rillettes, fresh saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche and couenne snuggled in next to garlic, thyme from the garden, and some kitchen tools. I secured it all in ziplock bags, and tucked the bags in between my clothes. Hello, TSA!

Our friends at D’Artagnan had everything, shipping the remainder of what was needed for the perfect cassoulet, duck legs and duck fat, and a real treat – prunes stuffed with foie. (They’re called French Kisses. Rhapsodically good.)

D’Artagnan also carries the official bean of cassoulet – the Tarbais. This bean is like no other, and sports a great back story. It cooks perfectly, with some beans shedding their skins and softening to create a thick backdrop for the meats, and other beans magically remaining whole, but meltingly tender. A perfect texture for cassoulet.

(I also ordered a good sized roasting chicken, air chilled. This bird was delicious and chicken-y. I stuffed D’Artagnan’s outrageous truffle butter under the skin of the breast and legs, then served it with duck fat roasted potatoes and green beans.)

Take note. This month, for our last Charcutepalooza challenge, D’Artagnan will offer a remarkable discount on their entire product line. Watch your email for the code. You must call to get this discount, and talk to the sales reps. They are so knowledgable and will steer you in the right direction every single time. It’s a rare opportunity for this access – imagine, game birds, wild mushrooms, every cut of pork and lamb, wagyu beef and foie gras.

Constructing the Cassoulet

The beauty of cooking something like cassoulet is the minimal hands on time.

Soak the beans the night before. Sauté the ventreche and couenne, and the aromatics, then cook the beans for an hour or so in plenty of water. Just do this in the morning while the rest of the household wanders in and out of the kitchen for coffee and bagels imported from Brooklyn.

There was more than enough time for a walk through Edgartown, unearthing a new charcuterie shop as well as the divine baker, Rickard’s.

In mid afternoon, with the help of one able assistant (thank you, Jessie!) we added the browned duck confit and rope of saucisse de Toulouse. This concoction cooked for three plus hours. Occasionally, I would reach into the oven and stir everything around a bit. It was dinner time when a nice crust had formed on the top and the smells were so intoxicating we simply had to dig in.

I was a little sad that I couldn’t bring the traditional cassoulet pot Kate gave me, but the suitcase was already absurd. In the Vineyard kitchen, we unearthed an enameled cast iron dutch oven from the back of a kitchen cabinet and it was perfect.

The divine recipe and some tips from Kate:

The couenne, or rolled, tied, pork skin, adds a silky, delicious feel to the simmering beans. Add it with the ventreche, at the start.

Later, when adding the meat, untie and unroll the couenne, dice it the same size as the beans, and add it to the pot. These little pieces of goodness will rise to the surface and add a crispy je-ne-sais-quoi to the cassoulet crust.

The ventreche, carrots, and onions should be diced the same size as the beans.

Cook the beans in a full two quarts of water per pound. Don’t panic if there is a lot of liquid left when the beans are soft. Just add the browned meats and sausages and get the mixture simmering and hot. It will all work out.

Cook the cassoulet in a 325° oven, uncovered, and make sure it keeps the simmer. The cassoulet will develop a rich brown crust in good time. Be patient.

Serve with a very acidic, crunchy salad and a rough, earthy red wine.

Celebrating Charcutepalooza

While waiting for the cassoulet to finish, we enjoyed bourbon manhattans and a charcuterie board of jambon de Camont, pork rillettes, duck rillettes, cornichons and pickled asparagus. It should come as no surprise that we watched Bridesmaids.

And oh, it was a marvelous cassoulet, with duck confit, saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche, couenne and Tarbais beans. As authentic as it could be, from this side of the pond. Kate, I hope you approve!

Cassoulet is a food made for celebrations, and sharing it with good friends feels like a great big hug.

Charcutepalooza, Food52 and The Grand Prize

The Grand Prize will be awarded in just a few weeks. Kate Hill, Trufflepig, and The Antiques Diva have been dreaming up amazing fun for our lucky winner.

The dates are now firm – the winner will fly to Paris on March 2nd and fly back on March 10th, 2011.

There will be one night of fun in Paris, then off you go on a fast train to Agen, the Lot-et-Garonne town near Kate’s Camont.

You’ll spend four days in Gascony experiencing charcuterie at the source, then you’ll hop back on the train to Paris, where you’ll have an afternoon to explore the city. Friday, March 9th will be packed with fun: start your Paris day with a visit to the historic Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and then wrap it all up at Friday night’s blogger cocktail party. A true Charcute-folie!

Eligibility and Entries

We’re beyond thrilled that FOOD52 has agreed to host the Charcutepalooza final competition. Watch the FOOD52 site for details about the Charcutepalooza contest that will close up the year. That’s right, from December 29th and ending January 4th, 2012, the two finalist’s entries will be featured on FOOD52. Are you ready for your close up?

For now, this is a good time to review the eligibility requirements for your entry, and to begin to gather your thoughts.

We’ll be looking for quality writing, beautiful photography, and an original recipe, so scan your posts for the best example(s) of your charcuterie skills.

Your entry, due no later than Midnight EST, December 6th, 2011, must include

•your name, blog URL and email address
•a profile photo (jpg format)
•50 words describing your Charcutepalooza experience
•links to the 12 Charcutepalooza monthly challenge posts on your blog
•links to no more than two of your Charcutepalooza blog posts that you wish to nominate for the grand prize competition

Send this information in an email to Charcutepalooza at gmail dot com by 12/6/2011.

Kim and I will review all the entries. It’s up to us to whittle them down to the best six and we already know it will be tough – you all are so awesome.

The semifinalists’ posts will be forwarded to the judges, who will whittle the six down to two. The two finalists’ blog posts will be presented on FOOD52, where the community’s vote will decide the winner.

It’s all very exciting. And it’s coming right up.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I cannot believe it’s been 9 days since I checked in here. But when I chronicle these days, I hope you’ll understand. The best news of all? I’m all ready for the holiday, finished with the chores and now, lazily gazing at the trimmed tree and planning fun cooking projects in between reading all the books that I’ve piled up.
In the last three weeks, we’ve had three sets of houseguests and parties for 7, 50, 18 and 8. I’ve baked 1,123 Christmas cookies in between all that party cooking. Mailed out 20 cookie boxes, dropped off another 15 cookie bags. Finished shopping for Dennis, the dog and the cat. Wrapped all that and filled stockings.
Thankfully, many years ago, I “Tom Sawyer’ed” my tree trimming party into a (fair) exchange of work for food. Friends arrive ready to string lights, hang ornaments and fashion ribbon bows. This year, I made cassoulet, and if you’ve been following along here, you’ll recognize the confit and duck breasts that contributed to that meal.
I must must must give a shout out to Rancho Gordo beans. The Christmas Lima and Flageolet beans were spectacular. I also sourced Tarbais, at an absurd price, but my desire for authenticity overwhelmed me.
The charcuterie class I took last fall was very helpful as I sorted out all the versions of cassoulet. I remembered one thing in particular – Chef Moore said that different types of beans made for the most interesting cassoulets. And it really did make a huge difference. The textural ranges of the beans, in between the bite sized pieces of duck confit and duck breast, all studded with diced carrots, celery and leeks, made this a true symphony of a dish.
Lucky me, my women friends (plied with Jack Rose cocktails, grilled oysters, and cassoulet, arugula salad with a fig vinaigrette) decorated tree, mantle, dining room and kitchen. The house was sparkling with mercury glass, candles, (LED!) lights and crystal.
We sat to toast one another, the year to come, enjoy our friendships – and two desserts – Meyer lemon meringue pie and raspberry tart with creme anglais.
Did I mention – the dishwasher, two of the three showers, and (yesterday) the washing machine each stopped working, requiring repairmen and plumbers and so on – all in the past three weeks. I think it’s a sign to slow down for a few days.

I’m going to enjoy this period of rest. And it’s starting tomorrow, with a predicted 12″ of snow.

Tree Trimming Cassoulet
Serves 18
I used a Staub 7 qt. cast iron oval oven to make and serve this dish.

3# mixed dried beans (flageolet, Tarbais, Christmas lima were my choices, but any white beans work)
1 fresh ham hock
Large bunch thyme
3 bay leaves
Large bunch parsley
2 onions, quartered
Whole peppercorns
Cheesecloth
1 T Salt

Soak the beans overnight in copious amounts of water.

The next day, drain and rinse the beans, place them in a large (7 qt or larger) stock pot with the ham hock and cover with water. In a large piece of cheesecloth, tie up the celery tops (leaves), three carrots, chopped coarse, onion quarters, six stalks of thyme, 10 stalks of parsley, 2 bay leaves and 10 peppercorns. Submerge the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes.

Add 1 Tbls. salt and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, testing to be certain they are cooked through, but not mushy. Dispose of cheesecloth bag. Pluck the lovely meat from the ham hock and put it in with the beans. Set aside or refrigerate for up to one day.

1.5# fresh (not smoked) bacon, diced
4 celery stalks, 1/8″ dice
8 carrots, 1/8″ dice
6 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half vertically, then thinly sliced into half-moons
4 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c thyme leaves
Six duck confit leg quarters
Six duck breasts, fresh, skin & fat crosshatched & scored
6 c chicken or duck stock
3 c dry bread crumbs
1 c chopped parsley

In the pan in which you intend to cook and serve, crisp up the confit pieces in their fat. As they crisp, remove from the pan and set aside. When all the confit has been crisped, add the duck breasts, fat side down. Cook 6 minutes on medium high, then turn and cook for 4 minutes on the reverse side. Remove from the fat and slice into six pieces each. Add to the confit pieces and hold.

Into the cast iron pot, add the bacon, cooking slowly until cooked through and just starting to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Pour off and reserve all but 1/2 c of the fat, which should be left in the pot. Saute the leeks until soft, then add carrots and celery. Now add the garlic and cook quickly, so it doesn’t burn. Generously salt and pepper all the vegetables.

If additional fat is needed to coat all the vegetables well, add it back to the pot. Gently toss and coat everything, then add the beans and combine. Add fat as needed to make it moist. Finally, add in the meats and combine well. Taste for salt and pepper and correct.

Pour in the stock until everything is nice and moist and the stock is just showing at the top.

Stir together the bread crumbs and parsley. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper. Spread the breadcrumbs across the entire surface of the cassoulet.

Bake for at least an hour at 350. After that, it can be held for two hours at 225, but additional stock may be needed to moisten everything, and can be added at the edge, trying not to disturb that beautiful crispy topping.

Do serve a salad with this. Don’t try to serve anything else. Cassoulet. You’ll never forget it and neither will your guests.