Sunday, January 29, 2012

If It's COLD... Eat Cassoulet!

I am a little worried about what the weatherman says we have coming our way next week. COLD. Bitter cold! Now you may wonder why I am making such a big fuss (after all, it's still winter), but you see, I absolutely hate the cold. While some people are rejoicing at the possibility of freezing canals and being able to go ice skating, I am fearing slippery roads and having to wear thick layers of bulky, unappealing clothes. The snowman look is never pretty.
That aside, there is one thing I like about cold weather: the excuse to eat heavy, rich foods. The kind that Dr. Oz would wholeheartedly disapprove of. In an ideal world, I would stay home when the temperatures drop, hiberante like a bear and eat things like cheese and cream covered potatoes, boeuf bourguignon and thick pea soup with big, juicy slices of Dutch sausage. All washed down with liters of hearty red wine.
Cassoulet is of course one of the most perfect winter dishes. It is warming, delicious and has enough calories to keep you going for at least a week. If not more.
Now before I give you my recipe, let me remind you once again that this is one of those typical French recipes that can be rather finicky...if you let them. You can make a fuss about what kind of meat to use, where to cook the cassoulet and whether or not it should have a crunchy crust. So many rules, so much nonsense. Just do what I do. Think like a French grandma and it will always work out. Simplicity is usually key.
Bon App├ętit!

Serves 6
550g white beans
2 tbsps duck fat
4 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
125g pork belly, cubed
1 bouquet garni
1,5 L water
5 tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
65g tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp duck fat
350g lamb shoulder, cubed
3 Toulouse sausages
3 duck legs
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 handfuls fresh breadcrumbs

Soak the beans overnight.
Heat the duck fat, add the onions and the garlic and gently saute for 3 minutes. Add the pork belly and cook for another minute. Add the drained beans, the bouquet garni and the water. Bring to the boil and add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, but add the salt and pepper halfway through the cooking time. At the end of the cooking time, preheat the oven to 200C. Heat 1/2 tbsp duck fat and brown the lamb. Add to the beans. Prick the sausges and brown them in the other 1/2 tbsp duck fat. Cut them into three pieces each and add to the beans as well. Take the duck legs out of the fat*, cut the meat in rough chunks and add to the beans. Stir well and top the dish with a handful of bread crumbs. Put the pan in the oven and cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Push the breadcrumbs down, add another layer and cook for a final 45 minutes, increasing the temperature to 220 during the last 10 minutes. Serve with a Corbrieres or a Minervois.

*Heat the tin of duck legs in a hot water bath before opening. That will soften the fat so that you can remove the legs in one piece.


Kelly-Jane said...

Just the thing to help keep the cold out :)

Paola said...

Yes indeed! Thanks for stopping by KJ! :)