Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
[My YouTube Video]
Cassoulet is a rich, slow cooked stew or casserole that originated in the south of France during the 14th century. It traditionally contains pork, sausages, and white beans as well as a duck or goose confit and then topped with fried bread crumbs or cracklings. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, which is a deep, round earthenware pot with slanted sides. This is a dish that traditionally takes about three days to prepare, but is oh so worth all the effort!! A confit, in case you don’t know, is one of the oldest ways to preserve food. It is essentially any kind of food that has been immersed in any kind of fat for both flavor and preservation. When stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months! Typically meats (most often waterfowl) are preserved in fats, while fruits are preserved in sugar.
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”
Chicken Confit (Using Olive Oil) by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network
Mandatory: You must make a confit and incorporate it in to a cassoulet.
Variations: You may choose to use any combination of meat or other protein source that you wish. We also encourage you to soak your own beans, but we understand if you decide to use canned. As extra credit, we challenge you to make your own sausages!!
For Duck (or Chicken) Confit: 2 Days.
First day, 15 minutes.
Second Day, 2 hours.
For Cassoulet: 3 Days
First Day: 10 minutes, if that
Second Day: Approximately 3 ½ hours, most of which is oven time
Third Day: 1 ½ hours, all oven time
Chicken Confit Using Olive Oil
Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network
4 chicken leg portions with thighs attached, excess fat trimmed and reserved (about 2 pounds/ about 1 kg total)
1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon (15.6 ml) kosher salt (**note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves
4 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons (7½ ml) (6 gm) black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ( 2½ ml) (3 gm) table salt
4 cups (1 liter) olive oil
1. Lay the leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the kosher salt and black pepper. Place the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and sprigs of thyme on each of 2 leg portions. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions, flesh to flesh, on top. Put the reserved fat from the chicken in the bottom of a glass or plastic container. Top with the sandwiched leg portions. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
2 .Preheat the oven to cool 200°F/90°C/gas mark ¼.
3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Remove the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat and reserve. Rinse the chicken with cool water, rubbing off some of the salt and pepper. Pat dry with paper towels.
4. Put the reserved garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and chicken fat in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot. Sprinkle evenly with the peppercorns and salt. Lay the chicken on top, skin side down. Add the olive oil. Cover and bake for 12 to 14 hours, or until the meat pulls away from the bone.
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 - 8 (unless you're Lisa Michele)
Ingredients for Cassoulet
5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs
1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right? (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)
1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.
4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.
10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you'll need that later).
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.
12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You're looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.
14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don't get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn't have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.