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Project Cassoulet: This is it

Step 4 - D-Day.

First I had to count backwards on the prep time, cooking and rest time. I estimated about 5 hours total. I skimmed the congealed fat (I know that sounds gross) and brought the pork ragu up to a simmer while working on removing the duck from the bone.

Then I went to work on browning the sausage and crisping the duck skin. Then everything got layered into the pot.

Since I have to do things the hard way, I made my own bread crumbs (earlier in the week). I toasted slices of bread in the toaster and blasted them in the food processor. I made about 4 cups and am I glad I had that extra cup because I needed it.


You need to toast the bread crumbs in the fat from the skin and pork sausage. I needed to use a little of that liquid gold I had reserved (AKA duck fat). I did the 3 cups as the recipe said. You use 2 cups and then 20 minutes before it's done, you sprinkle over the additional cup. Well the 2 cups looked a little skimpy but I went with it. 

Off we went into the o…
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Project Cassoulet - Pork Ragu

Step 3: Pork Ragu. I couldn't decide which pot to use for this, but decided it was probably best to use the Dutch oven (not THE Dutch oven). You needed to add the beans to the pork ragu afterwards, so I thought it best to use a big pot. However, before assembling the cassoulet, you need to bring the pork ragu back up to a simmer. I thought it best to store it in the pot (one less container to clean). Thankfully the pot fit in the refrigerator.

This was not that complicated. Brown the pork, add the remaining ingredients, and cook until tender, skimming the fat every once in a while.

Once it was done, I added the beans.  Since the beans were made the day before and chilled, this helped cool the ragu down a bit as well. Next time, I think cooking the beans and the ragu on the same day would be doable.

Project Cassoulet - The Beans

Step 2 of the Cassoulet is the beans. This is pretty straight forward. You soak the beans overnight, throw in some ingredients, and cook until tender.

I could not find the suggested Tarbais or corona beans. I went with the other option - cannellini beans. The trickiest part to remember was to keep the liquid from the beans (I needed about half of the liquid). Since I was making the pork ragu the next day this was key to remember. Also, the pot I soaked them in overnight was way too small. 

It is important to leave the beans a little firm and not to cook them to mushy. As they cook for an additional two hours, they turn soft and if you started out with very soft beans, I think they would fall apart.

Project Cassoulet: Duck Confit

Step 1 for Project Cassoulet is duck confit. There were a few different temperature suggestions. I decided to middle of the road at 158. There were also a variety of ingredients. i decided to stay true to the BA recipe (shocking I know).
The night before, I bagged up the legs. Three were popped into each packet with a few sprigs of thyme, peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves, some peppercorns, juniper berries, and a good dose of salt. (I went with 1% of the overall weight). So I set the temperature and the time for 16 hours (bright in early in the AM was the start so it would be ready by bedtime). And Sous Vide away. This was based on the recommendations over at Chef Steps.






Once they were done, I put them in the refrigerator all sealed up. Ready to be unsealed, meat removed from bone, duck fat scraped/reserved, and skin crisped for Project Cassoulet.

Two things I learned: prick the skin before sealing them up and remove them when they're still warm. When making duck the traditional…

Project Cassoulet

Last Spring Bon Appetit ran an article about Cassoulet (definitely with a capital "C"). This is not a recipe - it's more of a project so it deserves a capital "C." I ripped it out of the magazine and fantasized about making it.

The duck leg confit seemed intimidating - where was I getting that extra duck fat from? Where was I getting an 8qt dutch oven? That's huge! I put it away and then put it out of my mind. I then came across it again and put it away again.

Then I came across on the intertubes that you could sous vide duck confit. This was a revelation. It seemed easy and you didn't need any additional duck fat. You just used the existing duck fat from the legs. OK so now this was starting to look like it could happen.

I pondered it a little further. Could I use two different dutch ovens instead of an 8 qt? Maybe? Would it come out the same? I asked someone I knew who seemed like she would have made cassoulet and she had. She used one dutch oven and…

Pasta Tahdig

When I first saw this recipe in the NYTimes I knew I had to make it. It sounded so simple and I love when I make pasta al forno and the pasta gets all crusty. This sounded similar to that crusty-ness but a lot more of it.

Pasta Tahdig (Adapted from the NYTimes)

1lb spaghetti
2 c homemade tomato sauce
1 c parmesan cheese (grated)
olive oil

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add back to pot. Mix with 2T olive oil, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Heat a 10" skillet. Add 3T of olive oil. Add pasta. Press it down with a spatula. You want it to form a dense cake-like blob. Brown for 20 minutes. Be sure to move the spatula under to ensure it's not sticking every few minutes. Add more oil as necessary. The oil should be bubbling a bit up the sides. Carefully drain off the oil. Using a pizza pan (or other flat surface such as a pot lid), flip the pasta cake out of the skillet. Put the drained oil back into the pan and slide the pasta cake back into the skillet. Again brown for 20…

Grilled Octopus

Grilled octopus is so delicious. It seems so intimidating to make, but it isn't.

Grilled Octopus

8qts water
1 c white wine
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in 3
1 rib celery, cut in 3
3 whole clove garlic
salt
3lb octopus
olive oil
sugar

Place water through salt ingredients into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes.  While water is coming to a boil, clean the octopus. You might need to remove the innards from the head (more than likely they have been removed already). Cut the octopus head right below the eyes. From the lower part of the body find the firm piece and remove (sometimes called the beak). You might need to cut in with the tip of the knife to find it. Cut the eye section from the head. With a mallet tenderize the legs and body of the octopus (a few whacks should do it). Now you should be ready to cook the octopus.

Lower the water to a simmer. Gently lower the octopus in body into the water. Keep in the water for 3-4 seconds. Pull it back out.…