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November 2010 COTM: WOLFERT- Meats, plus Terrines and Cassoulet

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  1. LAMB WITH GARLIC AND WHITE BEANS, TCSWF (1988), p. 292

    This was much more fussy and involved than I thought--not as much as the more typical cassoulet containing duck confit, but it took the better part of a day of active prep.
    I started by soaking the great northerns (2 hours). Prepped salt pork by removing rind and simmering it (and the lean) in water for a few minutes. Since the only salt pork I could find was pre-sliced, I couldn’t cube it, so I chopped it.

    Prepping the lamb was a royal pain: I used boneless leg b/c that’s what I had and cut it into 2-inch cubes, removing almost all the fat, as called for, and then cut slits into ea. cube and inserted a sliver of garlic--utterly tedious, must be a better way! I then sprinkled salt, pepper, and a little sugar on the meat (rather than "rubbing" it into the cubes, as recipe suggests). I then seared the lamb in a little oil. I used a 5 ½ quart (LC) DO rather than the 3 qt Wolfert suggests (perhaps the reason I ended up w/so little meat braising liquid, but at the time the larger pot made sense—even it necessitated 5 batches; I'd have been searing all day in a 3 qt—and I don’t think all the meat/other ingredients would have fit into a 3qt.) Lamb was set aside, and since no oil/fat remained in the pot, no blotting was necessary. I added the chopped salt pork (lean) and sautéed briefly, then added chopped onions and cooked for 10-12 minutes until “soft and golden.” Next I deglazed w/ white wine, returned lamb w/accumulated juices to the pot, added chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, a good-sized piece of orange rind, and some dried (washed not soaked, Wolfert directs) porcini. (I think soaking them would have been better as these still seemed vaguely papery in the finished dish. I’m not sure they really added anything anyway; they might have had they been pre-soaked and added in along w/some of the strained soaking liquid.) Everything was brought to a boil and then simmered, covered, for probably 2 ¼ hours. (After 1 ½ hours, I realized the meat was starting to scorch so I added about 1 c chicken stock to the pot, and ended up adding a bit more twice in the remaining cooking time.) The very little remaining braising liquid contributed to a somewhat dry finished dish.

    Meanwhile I prepared the beans as directed: drained them, covered w/tepid water and brought to a boil for 5 minutes, drained them again, and added them to a 5 qt DO and immediately covered them w/boiling water (from yet another kettle). I added sliced carrot, onion stuck w/cloves, aforementioned salt pork rind, and herb bouquet (celery leaves, thyme, bay leaf, parsley), covered the pot, and lowered the heat to simmer. After an hour, I could see the beans would not need the whole 2 hours the recipe suggested, so I immediately added the fresh garlic sausage, pricked, to the pot and cooked it in the beans, another 40 minutes. I then removed and discarded everything but the pork rind, sausage, and beans from the pot.

    I then boiled separately the cloves (in skins) from a garlic head for 10 minutes, and drained and peeled them.

    Finally, I put it all together: pork rinds went into the bottom of a 5½ qt LC DO (no appropriate earthenware vessel or bean pot on hand), and then a layer of beans. I realized I’d forgotten to salt the beans so I sprinkled some sel gris over them here before scattering the boiled garlic cloves over the whole. I then spooned in about half the lamb and placed about half the sausage (in slices) over that. Another layer of beans (meant to be 1/3), sel gris, lamb, and sausage goes on top, and the rest of the beans go atop that. At this point, I realized I didn’t have enough beans to make a complete top layer (I’d miscalculated the thirds). Wolfert directs pouring all the remaining meat juices over the beans/meat at this point, but alas there were none. (Would I have had juices had I used a smaller pot? Hmmm.) So I poured all the bean liquid over the dish (rather than “just enough . . . to moisten). Since I was dissatisfied w/ the final portion of beans not covering the meat, I decided to go rogue: I spread a layer of bread crumbs over the top and drizzled duck fat over that (as called for in more typical cassoulet preparations). I put the whole thing into a 325F oven and baked for about an hour.

    Upshot: it was very tasty, but a little dry, imo. I wish I’d poured chicken stock over the beans when I didn’t have much meat juice. I will do that with (the massive amount!) of leftovers. Would I make this again? Probably not--even though both my husband and guest seemed to really enjoy it and both had seconds. I hadn’t read the recipe and thought through it carefully enough, so it was more work than I bargained for (Wolfert’s estimate of 1 hour active prep is way off, even allowing for some distractedness on my part). For that investment of time, effort, and ingredients, I’d just as soon go at it a bit longer and make a Toulousian cassoulet w/duck confit.

    Served this with Wolfert’s Salad w/Garlic Croutons (p. 72). Dessert was pear tarte tatin.

    13 Replies
    1. re: nomadchowwoman

      My hat is off to you for sticking with it. I'm not sure if I would have stopped at the slitting-the-lamb-cubes-and-inserting-garlic stage ("shish kebobs are always good!") or if I would have looked at that boneless leg of lamb and thought "roast lamb - yum!". I'm glad that everyone enjoyed it even if overall you decided it wasn't worth it.

      1. re: GretchenS

        LOL. That was exactly the point at which I knew I wasn't likely to ever make this again, Gretchen. Funny, and I forgot to mention it in my overly-long report, but despite all that garlic, the finished dish didn't deem particularly garlicky.

      2. re: nomadchowwoman

        Wow--I'm a little kitchenwork-weary just from reading that. But those flavors cooked all together in the end sound delicious. So *many* flavors (could you taste the orange?) Garlic does melt into lamb like magic.
        Did I understand correctly that this was a whole leg of lamb, boneless?

        1. re: blue room

          Well, it started out as one, but Ihad used part of it last week, and frozen the remainder. This was probably somewhere between 3 and 3 1/4 lbs. I couldn't taste the orange particularly, but the beans tasted really good--and I think I'd have loved them w/more moisture in the finished dish.
          And, yes, it was wearying, particularly as I had put too much stock in Wolfert's time estimates.

          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            If I make this dish I'm certainly NOT slitting each chunk of lamb and inserting a sliver of garlic. Yikes! I think the dish would be delicious if you just cooked the garlic with the onions. I don't know if Paula would rail against shortcuts or omissions, but I do it all the time, and the dishes I've made have been delicious anyway. I'm thinking of trying this next week.

            In any case, nomadchowwoman, you deserve at least a Nobel Prize in cooking for preparing this dish as written!

            1. re: oakjoan

              Or maybe a dunce cap!

              (BTW, it took me more than two hours on lamb prep alone. I like your idea a lot better.)

        2. re: nomadchowwoman

          I'm exhausted just reading your post. It does sound divine, though. I've done that trick with garlic before, but never with individual chunks of meat!

          ~TDQ

          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            I salute all your efforts in honoring this rather involved recipe as written and am glad your dish turned out so well, but have a hard time seeing why the lamb prep should have taken so long.

            Re-reading this book after many years (It was always the most ambitious technically of PW's books), I think it poses a challenge to us in that I believe she is presenting refined and perfected versions of what are essentially rustic recipes ( feel like I can see those cruder versions peeking through). If we lack familiarity with the base versions of the dishes involved, we may be less appreciative of her book. I can see myself, while cooking this recipe not strippping off all the fat and not boiling the garlic cloves for example. Probably given the multiple stages of fat extraction and long cooking time reducing time spent on these items would not make much of a difference. Would that we all had the cooking time and experience to go through Ms. Wolfert's process in working these recipes out.

            At any rate, you have inspired me to try the dish, thanks for your efforts and commentary.

            1. re: jen kalb

              I guess it took (me) so long b/c I was working w/leg and had to cube it myself, remove the fat, make slits, and insert slivers of garlic into each cube. (And probably, I'm slow, but I spent two hours doing all that.) In retrospect, I probably wouldn't be so faithful to her recipe, but really thought there might be something "magical" about inserting those garlic slivers into each individual piece of meat. (As to the boiled garlic cloves, I never even noticed them in the finished dish; another poster suggested roasting the garlic, which sounds like a good idea to me.)

              I've made the more involved cassoulet twice in my life, and I've done countless riffs on lamb and white beans, and my take-away from all this is: if I'm going to devote as much time to a dish as I ended up doing here, I'd just as soon go all out on cassoulet w/ the works; if I want a weekday lamb-and-beans dish I'll use one of my much easier recipes.

              Tonight, I'm cooking another Wolfert dishnthat looks much simpler, and I think I'll be able to put it together pretty quickly short order.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                detailed work is surely a labor of love, but I stick slivers of garlic into lamb roasts pretty much every time I make one - just cant imagine it taking more than a few min to sliver the cloves, make slits in the pieces and stick the slivers in,, nor can I imagine the dissection of the (boneless) legs I buy at costco into chunks and the removal of big fat deposits taking too long. dissection of a whole bone-in leg would be more tedious, I agree, and these steps may just be the straws that broker the camels back for you given the overal complexity of the recipe. Hope tonights recipe goes better, look forward to your report.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    I also find breaking down a leg of lamb is a time-consuming task. But I much prefer doing this myself than buying whatever lamb stew meat is available. Who knows what types of meat are included? Who knows?

                    I love lamb and white beans.... would you post some of the other recipes/books you use for the easier options?

                    1. re: smtucker

                      Sure--I will look up a few and post a little later.

          2. Beefsteak with Peppercorns and Raisins WOLFERT World of Food pg.241

            Not bad. First of all, I used elk, not beef, and only 1 small steak, just to see how the flavor would be. The meat is pressed with salt & cracked peppercorns, seared hot, but just for a couple minutes on each side, then kept warm (foil tent). Cognac-soaked (I used brandy) golden raisins are put into the pan and set ablaze for a second. Then a little beef stock (bullion) and a little cream and butter, and a little Dijon mustard are added to make a very pleasant sauce. The whole thing is very quick, I had everything at hand so that steak would stay hot!
            I've never lit alcohol before so that was fun--here's the deep pan I used--just in case--
            http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?id... Scaredy cat.
            This was tasty, but not something I'd make again. A tasty novelty to me, though she said it is a bistro favorite. I should mention she recommends extra strong mustard and I only had regular Dijon. And she used black AND white peppercorns--I cracked only black.

            3 Replies
            1. re: blue room

              I'm scared, too. I guess it worked out okay, right?

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I shouldn't be surprised, but Youtube has several little flambe' videos -- it's the obvious moment to record in the course of a recipe!

              2. re: blue room

                We made this Steak with Peppercorn and raisins tonight - it was pretty easy and definitely delicious.
                Had a couple of prime rib steaks from costco gathering frost in the freezer. Used armagnac rather than cognac for soaking and flaming (lots of fun, husband turned off light to enjoy the moment. Had some duck stock in the frig, used that to deglaze, cook down and then added the cream, mustard and final bit of butter. It was a surprisingly mild and tasty dish given the amount of pepper which set off the tender beef very well. i dont always have heavy cream around and we dont eat steak frequently, but this was very satisfying. Served with some pilaf of rice and a green salad with fennel, radicchio and roasted walnuts.

                 
              3. Cassoulet in the style of Toulouse p. 317 TCOSWF

                This recipe definitely took some planning to procure all of the meats/parts to make. I found most things locally (pork shoulder, ham hock, pork rind, pork backfat), but had to order a few things online (Tarbais beans, Toulouse sausage, ventreche, and Moulard duck legs). I also had to make the duck confit and chicken stock before starting the recipe. Hats off to that Roxlet and her husband who have been making this for 20 years. After making this, I have a new appreciation for this dish that I’ve enjoyed in restaurants and am now fully aware of all the time (and fat and fatty parts) that go into it to make it taste so luscious. I followed the recipe to the letter, except I only used 4 legs of duck confit (the legs I purchased were very large). The house was filled with the aroma of garlic and porky goodness. A wonderfully decadent dish.

                 
                 
                13 Replies
                1. re: BigSal

                  I have only made cassoulet once, and it was an amazing production. I used the version in Master the Art, vol 1. It was the most involved thing I have ever done. Making the confit, and when that was cured properly, making the Toulouse Sausage, then the lamb stew, and the beans, oh and who knows what else.

                  Someday I will do this again, but only for a large and enthusiastic crowd. By the time we finished eating this vast quantity of food, we were completely and totally tired of it. As I recall, the 8 qts of cassoulet lasted [both fresh and frozen] for 24 servings.

                  1. re: BigSal

                    I had to laugh when I saw this line in the recipe:

                    "2 quarts unsalted Chicken Stock, thoroughly degreased"
                    a little schmaltz is gonna hurt this??

                    I've probably tasted less than 50% of the ingredients in this dish...maybe someday I'll try something so ambitious.
                    That authentic-looking bowl you've got there is traditional?

                    1. re: blue room

                      Yes, there is no shortage of fat in this recipe. A little chicken grease from the stock would not have been noticed. I'm drinking red wine to counteract the effects of the impending fat hangover. :)

                      The bowl is a traditional cassole. I bought it last year when I thought I was going to make a caasoulet...and I never got past the thinking stage. I do love clay pots of all kinds.

                      smtucker- I'm impressed that you even made your own sausage. After one serving, I cannot imagine having another bowl of this in a very long time.

                    2. re: BigSal

                      BigSal, I'm so incredibly impressed. What a perfect weekend for it, too. Good to know which things were available locally (all things pork, apparently!) and which you had to send away for. Congrats!

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: BigSal

                        Good for you, BigSal, it looks amazing. Hats off to my husband, though, since he is the one who does it every year. I just enjoy the results! In case you have leftovers, they freeze perfectly and are great for that snowy night when you just want something really comforting!

                        1. re: BigSal

                          Looks perfect, Big Sal! And I second on the rec to freeze if you have a lot left over. It's quite the luxury to be able to pull some cassoulet out of the freezer on a cold, blustery night.

                          1. re: BigSal

                            Looks wonderful! And I am so glad to see it ,as I am planning to do the cassoulet for my thanksgiving dinner. I sure hope it's worth it. We are taking a break from the traditional thanksgiving this year. It's just two of us, and I have cooked the standard dinner for many years in a row. So I decided I would take on a different project this year. I would love to hear suggestions for sides to go with the cassoulet. So far, I know I will make a turnip gratin from Richard Olney, and probably a tarte tatin or other apple dessert. I need just another thing or two to round out the meal, especially something green. Perhaps just some simple fall salad greens would be fine, as rich as everything else is.

                            1. re: MelMM

                              Because we knew the Cassoulet would be very rich and filling, we ate it without any sides. I think a simple salad sounds lovely with it. I hope you enjoy your Cassoulet Thanksgiving meal.

                            2. re: BigSal

                              My New Year's project (didnt actually get it to completion for New Yeers day) was this Wolfert Cassoulet of Tolouse. It was really a stupendously enjoyable dish - allWhile it has a number of steps and take some time to execute over several days, and requires collecting some ingredients and finding one or more an appropriate pot, its not difficult, the following is my recollection of what I actually did, so my "days" may be different from wolferts work plan. It did not matter. Please note that this is a big recipe - serves 10-12. I was vacillating about whether to do the whole thing, but once I put the full 2 lb of beans in to soak I was in for the entire thing.

                              Day 1. marinate fresh meats overnight. Pork stew meet, pork knuckle (I did not have this subbed a ham hock added in a later stage) and pork skin are salted, peppered and refrigerated overnight.

                              soak beans overnight. I used cannelini.

                              Day 2 - create the ragu. meats are dried off and browned briefly in duck fat (I used the fat scraped off my duck confit, more later). Carrots and onions are added and sauteed, then pancetta in a hunk. Tomato paste is added then an herb bouquet - celery, parsley and thyme tied together with string, and a whole garlic clove and the pork skin rolled and tied with string and broth (I used leftover turkey stock). this cooks for say 1-1/2 hour. Meanwhile, the beans are drained and brought up to the boil. After they reach the boil and I think 1 hour after the ragu starts simmering, the beans are added to the ragu, and the whole is cooked until the beans are cooked. Wolfert would have you stop and "age" the dish for a day here in the refrigerator, skimming the fat. Because of time limits I proceeded with the recipe on the same day.

                              The duck leg confit (in my case, from Franny's Brooklyn Larder,$11 per piece) 2 pieces rather than the suggested 6, is steamed for 10 min. I used only 2 rather than the suggested 6. The larger meat pieces are extracted from the ragu, any bones are removed and the meat is cut up. The pork skin is cut into 2 in pieces/strips.
                              the cooked garlic cloves are squeezed out of the garlic head

                              The next step is a further enrichment of the ragu. the cooked garlic, 4 fresh garlic cloves and a few ounces of salt pork are processes til smooth with some water in the food processor. This is stirred back into the beans and cooked for half an hour. At this stage the ragu is ready to assemble, but there was not time to complete the dish that day. I decided to assemble the ragu for baking and leave the baking for a subsequent day. I chilled the ragu, skimmed off as much fat as I could manage, and assembed it.

                              Finding big enough earthenware dishes was a challenge - I decided to split the dish into two. The assembly is fairly simple - the pork skin pieces are laid, fat side down as lining in the pot - precision is not important, nor is covering the whole surface. The meat pieces (other than the duck) are mixed back into the bean ragu, and half of the ragu (lifted with a slotted spoon) is spread in the pot, then the duck pieces are laid over, then the remainder of the ragu solids, then the liquid is poured over all. I had just enough liquid, no excess. With no time to cook this, I stored the filled, covered pots under my front stoop.

                              Day 3, back to work, had to rely on husband and daughter to complete dish - they forgot.
                              Day 4 - repentant husband and daughter completed dish, bringing up to room temperature, pouring over some of the delicious duck fat retrieved in the confit steaming process (in lieu of the skimmed grease), baking for a time, then topping with fried or grilled garlic sausage fresh bread crumbs. and cooking for another hour til golden brown.

                              This was followed by an impossible to comply with waiting time. We were famished and ravished by the smell. Serving is simple, spoon out and drizzle some walnut oil over to "freshen"

                              Scrumptious. Indescribable velvety texture. No one can resist. our smaller pot was enough for 5 servings, with seconds. I have frozen the second, much larger part to take to a family gathering. I dont believe my wavering vegetarian daughter will be able to resist.

                              I think this will be our Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner next year.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Oh my goodness Jen, congratulations...what a feat! I somehow missed this when BigSal originally posted it. I had no idea a Cassoulet was so involved and I don't believe I've ever eaten one. I'll bet you're glad you made the full amount. I can't imagine having invested all this time and regretting you didn't have more....

                                Thanks for such an enjoyable post.

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  Kudos. It all sounds wonderful, but most especially "I stored the filled, covered pots under my front stoop".....talk about resourcefulness.

                                  1. re: qianning

                                    thats what I resort to in winter when the frig is full - too full - already.

                                    Theres nothing complicated about the recipe - it just takes a while....

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      I have been making this dish once a year for almost a dozen years...

                                      The first time I engaged my fiance to help me, he had no idea how complicated it was but when he tasted it, he said it was one of the reasons he proposed!

                                      I had previously tried Julia's recipe, Saveur's recipe, D'Artagnan's kit, and a handful of other recipes but the Wolfert Tolouse is my go-to cassoulet...

                              2. Tonight was my first effort with a November COTM.

                                I made three dishes from World of Food. We started off with the Chanterelle and Cheese Croquettes with Mesclun (reviewed under “COTM – First Courses” ) then we had the Pan-Fried Pork Chops w Sherry Vinegar and French Cornichons (review below) accompanied by the Zucchini w Thyme and Black Olives (reviewed under COTM – Vegetables).

                                p. 252 – World of Food – Pan-Fried Pork Chops w Sherry Vinegar and French Cornichons

                                Let me start out w a couple of confessions. I accidently defrosted the smoked pork chops instead of the regular bone-in chops and, the only cornichons I could find were NOT French, and based on Paula’s weight specifications, I’ve concluded that Canadian cornichons are much, much bigger than their French cousins!! Now that’s out of the way, we loved this dish! Another surprise. What seemed to be a fairly simple dish on paper was elevated by ingredients and the method of execution. A simple cornichon butter is made by mashing finely diced pickle into the butter. The chops are marinated for 2 or more hours, in my case, just the two. On Paula’s advice and, despite my pre-disposition to refrigerate meat, I let the chops marinate at room temperature. This seemed to work out just fine though I have never done this before and likely won’t repeat this process, I’m just happier when meat is in the fridge!! A minimal amount of “pan sauce” is produced however it is very impactful and I wouldn’t increase quantities in the future. Overall the chops were tender, extremely flavorful and, the butter sauce, albeit a small amount, really did enhance our enjoyment of the dish. Mr bc loved this, it was his favorite of the 3 Wolfert recipes I made today.

                                 
                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Nice post, lovely photo Breadcrumbs. One thing I wasn't sure about, though, was the chops. Did you end up using the smoked chops? If you did, I think the pickle butter sounds as if you could use it for either reg or smoked. One of my husband's (and mine) favorite dishes is smoked pork chops with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, served with Dijon mustard.

                                  Thanks for a very good report. I've gotta try this soon.

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    I was wondering about the smoked chops with the pickles too, but it sounds like it came out fine.

                                    1. re: blue room

                                      Hi there, thanks so much. Yes I did use the smoked chops and they were very nice w the pickles. Sometimes I use sweet pickles in a ham sandwich so I figured the flavours would be similar and they were. I'd definitely recommend giving them a try, they were really yummy.

                                  2. Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse, p317, TCSWF
                                    Duck Legs Confit Cooked in a Pouch, p198, TCSWF

                                    So I made the cassoulet for Thanksgiving dinner as planned. It was just me and my husband, so no pressure to be traditional this year. There is really nothing hard about this recipe in the execution, it just takes a whole lot of advance planning and organization - not really my strong suits. So I worked up a timeline in a spreadsheet, to make sure I had everything ready when it needed to be.

                                    I used Wolfert's recipe for duck confit made in a sous-vide type way, in a vacuum sealed pouch. I don't have a sous-vide cooker, so I used her instructions for doing this in an electric oven. You put the pouches in a large pot, pour hot water over, and cook at 180 degrees over night. Next day you cool the pouches in a ice-water bath, then keep in the fridge for up to a week. I had ordered six duck legs, so I made them all into confit. But I was making a half recipe of cassoulet, so I froze the remaining three legs, still in their pouches. I probably could have gotten by with two legs in the cassoulet, because they were really large.

                                    With so much of this recipe being done in advance, it was pretty easy on Thanksgiving day. Most of the cooking on serving day was hands-off oven time, so it made things pretty low key for me. The cassoulet is rich and hearty, without being too heavy, and the flavors are perfectly appropriate for a thanksgiving meal. Who knows, this may become a tradition at my house. One substitution I made was a pig's foot in place of the ham hock. The pig's foot creates a lot of gelatin, which meant a really silky sauce around the beans. One thing I would do differently in the future is not to order French beans. I did this time, but these beans were not very fresh (yes, freshness does matter in dried beans), and took longer to cook up than they should have. And I don't think having them really added anything special to the dish. Next time, I'll just use cannellini beans from the grocery store. I don't have a traditional cassole like BigSal, but I did bake it and serve it in an earthenware pot.

                                    Even a half recipe of this cassoulet is huge. Probably could have served 8, with a few sides. This is not a bad thing at all. I'm looking forward to a few days of leftovers.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      These are all great notes. I am making the Wolfert cassoulet now and at one point she says to cut the duck confit skin into strips after removing meat and discarding the legs. But then she never mentions the duck skin again. Am I missing something? When she says to put the duck confit on top of the casserole, does she mean the skin as well as the meat? Thanks.

                                      1. re: sbarach

                                        Yes, it would go with the meat. At least that's how I read it. But you should feel free to use or not use the skin as you see fit.

                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          thanks so much. My pork skins completely came apart in the ragout but hoping they are good enough to line the pot. Hard to wrong with these delicious ingredients on a cold snowy day.