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cassoulet

Making this for the first time, trying Cooks Illustrated version with duck confit.
-am I making a huge mistake to buy the duck confit? And where in NYC can I buy a great duck confit or do they all come from D'artegnan?
_ some recipes suggest 'breaking' the crust several times, the recipe I selected doesn't mention this at all, actually the contrary, it layers the crumbs for a thick crisp crust - opinion?

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  1. I thought about making this dish, but was put off by the long charcuterie list in the traditional recipes - four different kinds of pork, two kinds of sausages, plus the confit. Paula Wolfert (not surprisingly) goes into cassoulet in great detail in her book on the cooking of south-western France. She has this to say about breaking the crust - "And what about breaking the crust - seven times, as some cookbooks proclaim? People laughed, but some agreed the crust could be broken and re-formed twice to get some texture into the sauce." She doesn't answer the question directly, but none of the recipes in her book call for breaking the crust.

    1. You should be able to get confit at Zabar's and/or Dean & Deluca.

      1. Making cassoulte is FUN. . . Congrats!
        I think all the duck confit in the universe comes from D'artegnan.
        Honestly if you are not too pressed for time, I would just make the confit. Its ridiculously simple plus you end up with more and its awesome shredded on a nice strong green salad.
        You should be able to find a recipe. As I recall, when I do it, I get about four duck legs, sprinkle with salt/pepper, might have added something else but can't recall, cover in goose fat [or duck fat] and stuff in the very low oven for requisite hours. It is frighteningly simple and very very tasty.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jenn

          The D'Artagnan cassoulet kit is pretty good.

        2. I love cassoulet, and now is a great time of year to be making it. In all my times of doing it, I've never broken the crust - just didn't seem necessary. And regarding the long list of meats, I've usually found that 1 kind of sausage, 1 kind of pork and the duck confit is really all it takes for a nice, flavorful cassoulet that you'll enjoy.

          And now I'm inspired to try making my own duck confit instead of buying it! Thanks, jenn!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: edwardspk

            No Problem! when you make the confit, if you have access to duck gizzards, they make an AWESOME confit.. .. . .. marvolous in omelett or on salad. . . .Had a salad with them in Paris once and simply had to have it again so I tracked down a recipe. Many Asian markets are a good source for bulk gizzards. . . .

            1. re: jenn

              Not sure about the States, but our Costco in Gatineau, QC carries confit for about 7 bucks for two legs--not a bad price. They also have tasty duck rillettes. You might check at your local Costco...

              1. re: zamorski

                found this once at Costco in Manhattan, fantastic bargain.

          2. If you make your own confit now, you'll have to wait until March or April to make your cassoulet… :) It's not absolutely necessary to let it mature, but people seem to agree that it's better that way. If you buy it in a jar or a can, you can get properly matured stuff that's ready to use right away.

            A lot of people consider breadcrumbs to be cheating; the crust should form all by itself from the other ingredients. You should break it when it's nicely browned to prevent it from burning and to mix the caramelized flavor into the dish. The more times you do this, the more flavor you get, but you have to stop before the whole thing totally dries out (or you can always add a bit more broth if you want to keep going for the whole 7 or 8 iterations). For the final crust maybe you can sprinkle on a layer of breadcrumbs, dotted with duck/goose fat. You won't win any awards for authenticity (*yawn*), but I'm sure it will be very tasty!

            1. Can't wait to get this thing in the oven (1/2/11) and I'm 'feeling' the permission to buy the confit this time. Thank you for responses.

              8 Replies
              1. re: serious

                I live in France, and I don't know anyone who makes their own confit...and most people go with one or kinds of pork and one kind of sausage (usually Toulouse or Montbeliard, which is an argument I refuse to get swept into...it's like the beans/no beans argument about chili)

                Actually, I don't even know that many people who make their own cassoulet...most folks buy it in jars and heat it up for a "supper of last resort"!!

                I've never heard anyone say anything about breaking the crust or not.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  So cassoulet is the 'pork and beans' of France?

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I would imagine that making cassoulet and confit in France --or haggis in Scotland--is not unlike people in the US who pickle or make jam--they are out there but most people are buying it in stores and are losing the memory of what it really is. That doesn't mean it is not worth doing.

                    And paulj, my husband calls cassoulet "french beany-weenie"

                    1. re: jenn

                      How about a 30 minute version?
                      http://www.kqed.org/w/jpfastfood/reci...
                      "In my version, I use ham, canned cannellini beans, and Italian and bratwurst sausages and serve the stew on a large platter, home style. Even considering the time required to remove the plastic covering and the tough outside skin from the ham, it doesn't take more than 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish."

                      1. re: jenn

                        yeah, actually, it kinda is -- but way, way better.

                        People have in restaurants...and they'll make it over a long weekend or at Christmas...but yeah, the reality is that it's way too time-consuming for the average family to make on a regular basis. (Not difficult...but time-consuming)

                        French families are just like families everywhere...not only is there sometimes school on Saturday mornings (yes, really), but then there's sports, and choir, and horseback lessons, and etc., etc.,e tc....then going to Grandma's on Sunday for dinner and doing the shopping and all the housecleaning and birthday parties and and and

                        There's still only vingt-quatre hours in the day.

                      2. re: sunshine842

                        I've seen those jars of cassoulet - a bit expensive in France, ridiculously so by the time they get to the USA. I have to assume people don't make it at home because although it's very easy to do it takes a long time (if you do it right!!). You don't have to DO anything most of that time, but people nowadays are antsy about going off and leaving things cooking, something their great-grandparents would have considered normal. The last cassoulet I made, the first part involved cooking the beans with lamb neck, and I did that overnight, waking to a beautifully perfumed house. Then I had about an hour of busy work, followed by another few hours where the oven was doing everything. For the price of a jar of adequate cassoulet - what, a liter and a half? - I got about a gallon of the most delicious bean dish I'd ever eaten.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          concurr whole heartedly on the long overnight cooking. With 3 starving pups and me working full time, we rely heavily on the ability to stuff the le crueset in the low low oven over night. I find most people are very timid about not only the overnight cooking but the idea of low tempature cooking in the oven. No one seems to realize that 175-200 is actually gosh darned HOT!

                          Now you have me wondering if there is any more lamb neck left in the freezer. . . . .

                          1. re: jenn

                            That part was beautiful serendipity. I'd been looking all over town for shanks, none to be had. At my last stop, the rahther posh Bristol Farms, I asked the butcher (yes, a real one) if maybe he'd have some neck? "I think I do!" he said, and came back with three. He trimmed them, then at my request sliced each one lengthwise down the middle. Well, I don't think shanks will be my first choice ever again.

                    2. Kinda like choucroute garni with *many* traditional ingredients; Don't have a nervous breakdown if you can't secure every item or some are bought or homemade, etc etc. Just Cook It!

                      1. I always find it SO sad that people are led to believe that Cassoulet is such a complicated dish. It's not. Particularly if you keep in mind that it was & still is a country/peasant dish - not some grand chef's frou-frou concoction.

                        I've been making it every single New Year's Day for decades now. No "confit" (which is NOT a necessary component) - I use up whatever bits are left from the Xmas roast goose, some wine-poached chicken breasts, turkey andouille & kielbasa sausages, lovely white beans, nice crumb crust, yadayadayada. While it does take a few steps, it's nothing like the ridiculous frou-frou recipes I'm hearing here.

                        I find it so sad when what's supposed to be a rustic country dish is made out to be a hassle.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Breezychow

                          Breezy:

                          I agree about the confit. I just quarter a duck, broil it, pluck it, and save the fat for the first cook of the beans ( a few tbl) and to flavor the crust. All of that duck fat goodness without the fuss!

                          And I know this is heresy, but I just don't like the texture component to confit.

                          CB

                          1. re: Breezychow

                            I agree with Breezychow--cassoulet can be as complicated or as simple as you want. Slow-cooked beans and tasty meats is pretty hard to screw up. For me, what makes it cassoulet more than anything else is the gelatin that gets released from the meats/bones. But even without that, it is still very tasty and satisfying.

                            1. re: Breezychow

                              Confit or not confit is another eternal argument...it all depends on WHERE you are, and WHAT the regional ingredients are...I think I mentioned above that it's a lot like chili...there are as many recipes as there are cooks.

                              I agree with you, breezy, this is rough peasant food...it's time-consuming, but it sure ain't difficult.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Frankly, outside of having to soak the white beans overnight, the rest of it comes together in a snap. Of course, since my version contains only poultry products, it's probably much easier than versions that contain a lot of veal, pork, etc.

                                1. re: Breezychow

                                  Dear Breezy, NOTHING is easier than pork! Duck comes close … My lamb additions require a bone-removal operation, as does poultry (or at least it would if I were making it), whereas a chunk of shoulder MIGHT have one big one to fish out.

                                  My early approximations of cassoulet were all done with lamb shank, cooked packaged sausage and canned beans, thrown together for informal entertaining (holiday open-houses and the like). Close attention to texture and seasoning is what makes all the difference there. I've gone from that to trying it with the classic Tarbais beans, hideously expensive and frankly not all that; my favorites are the Peruano (Mayacoba) beans I can get in the Latino stores in bulk at 99¢/lb or less. But after all it really IS just beans and meat!

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    That may very well be, but since my husband doesn't eat red-meat products, my Cassoulet is all poultry - & I've yet to find anyone who doesn't take 2nd helpings & clean their plates. I use leftover roast goose, boneless skinless chicken breast that's been poached in white wine, turkey kielbasa, & turkey or chicken Andouille sausage. Beans are plain old White Northern. Works for me!

                            2. A few weeks ago I made cassoulet and used Saveur's
                              recipe and it came out great. I had a smoked hock, duck
                              confit, and andouille sausage, pork loin, a fresh duck breast,
                              duck leg-thigh and two lamb chops in the mix. Also
                              lined the bottom of the roaster with pork shoulder bacon
                              that was lightly fried. Couldn't really tell the lamb was in there.
                              It was fantastic - I will say our Souflenheim roaster was full.
                              It's something we should do more than once a year but the
                              next time will make my own duck confit - two legs were 15 bucks.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Johnny West

                                Besides the lamb could you identify the meat? In particular what did the confit add?

                                1. re: paulj

                                  The pork hock , bacon, and confit blended together with
                                  a smoky salt taste that was quite good. The fresh duck was placed
                                  on the top and was baked with the panko crust - the confit tasted
                                  like duck only salty. The pork loin chops and the lamb were close
                                  to same - all was tender and falling apart. Almost everyone had 3rds.

                                  I used dried cannelloni beans which were soaked over night - perfect.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    paul -: Here is the recipe. I followed it reasonably close
                                    but subbed the meat for what I had &/or wanted. It's
                                    what they do in France. I had it at the Kamerzell, the first
                                    time, but it was so long ago I kind of forgot how good it is.

                                    http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                    I get almost daily updates ( & tweets) from Saveur and highly recommend signing up.

                                  2. re: Johnny West

                                    re the lamb---typical problem I have found with American lamb. It is slaughtered so young that it really doesn't develop the flavor necessary with these long cooked recipes. Another example would be the 7 hour leg of lamb that slowly cooks in wine---with american lamb I think it tastes like way too expensive pot roast with no lamb taste at all. I have MUCH better luck when I substitute goat in any recipe that requires long stewing of lamb.

                                    and $15 for two tiny legs of duck confit is why I make my own. Try a local Asian grocery store for your duck if you are not seeking organic etc.

                                    1. re: jenn

                                      Agreed on all accounts. I can get duck at the Ft. Lewis commissary and intend
                                      to make my own next time.

                                      I found the goat I've had locally to be very much like veal, even the last antelope I shot in WY. I usually buy lambs from the FFA kids but the cancelled the program last year. They were excellent.

                                  3. That's the thing with ALL of these French peasant dishes -- bourgignonne, cassoulet, coq au vin, pate, French onion soup....

                                    These are dishes thrown together by farm wives trying to make the best of what they had on hand. They were never intended to be fussy showpieces requiring a Master's degree to accomplish...they are just simple food. (delicious, but simple)

                                    Omit and substitute as you need to....les flics won't show up at your door because you didn't do it exactly as written...their mothers didn't make it exactly to a recipe, either.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Agree Completely. Plus the long recipes were also meant to cook unbothered while overly busy women did other stuff. No one had HOURS to stand by a stove---they tossed it together and headed out to deal with chickens/pigs/whathaveyou and came back in between tasks to check on or tweak what was cooking.
                                      Which is why everyone should be making cassoulet this winter!

                                      1. re: jenn

                                        Precisely. Just use what you have on hand as folks have done for hundreds of years. To me part of the wonderful experience of cooking such recipes is the satisfaction you get from making it in addition to eating it. I make pretty much everything from scratch for the sheer joy of the process (aside from the health benefits, etc. etc.). Cooking should be fun and enlightening, not intimidating. The cassoulet will be delicious!

                                    2. I made the cassoulet and it was excellent. I seared six 'baby' lamb chops at the end and stuck them in for the last ten minutes of cooking. Loved it, rave reviews, although it did not go unnoticed that this 'peasant food' cost about $90 to make.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: serious

                                        Yes, that is true if you're cooking all the required meats from scratch. My version is completely poultry-based, & uses as the mainstay the leftovers from the Xmas roast goose, turkey kielbasa sausage, & wine-poached chicken breasts. Absolutely delicious & almost healthy to boot - lol!!!