Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Beast of Carcasonne

The Beast

Nothing says both Carcasonne and Fall to me other than Charles the Hammer and his defense against the Moors.
Or was it the collapse of the power of the Cathars and their subsequent execution by the land-grabbing Catholic-leaning power merchants of the day.
Or is it the stuffing to the gills of local water fall during the autumnal cycle of liver gorging.
Actually, that sounds more like it, but no, I don't think that quite fits the bill.
Geese and Ducks have bills, right?
You certainly get a bill for their white gorged livers.
Hand-fed, btw, none of the disgusting machine-fed geese if you'd please.

Anyhow, Carcasonne and Fall say something with duck to me, but it's not foie gras.

It's cassoulet.


There's definitely a change that occurs with the seasons. In the summer, everything is quick. It's hot, so make it quick. Grill everything. Lots of fresh foods growing in the garden need magic preparation. Keep things simple and taste the flavors of everything growing and fresh.

There are exceptions in the summer to this of course. Smoking pork or brisket is good all times of year, but it's just nice to sit outside, have a cigar, a beer or two, and tend the pit.

In the fall and winter, it's different. It's braising time and the food is generally not as fresh. More reconstitution. More integration of flavors through slow cooking.

The processes take a while and the rewards are worth waiting for.

Well, cassoulet definitely fits that bill.

There are various varieties of these beast of winter food, though the primary homes of this dish come from three cities in the southwest of France, namely Castelnaudary, Toulouse, and Carcassonne. They are all great places in their own right, regardless of their size, history, or presence of walled city and their versions should each be tasted and enjoyed for their grand and heavy delight.
However, the master recipe that I've worked with for years is a fairly slow version of the recipe based on one publicized by the venerable chef, Pierre Franey.

The process involves doing several relatively easy dishes beforehand and then combining them in one relatively easy dish at the end. But it does take time. I even make it a little worse than the recipe because I make the garlic sausage that goes with the beans when you reconstitute them.

The Recipes
The recipe consists of 4 parts and a final assemblage of those parts thereby creating le grand cassoulet. Also, please check out Pierre Franey's Cooking in France. It's a classic cookbook investigating the countryside cuisines

Garlic Sausage

  • Sausage Casings!
  • 3.5# pork butt, cubed
  • 1/2# pork fat, cubed
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 1 Tb black pepper, ground
  • 1 Tb salt
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1/2 c. white wine

    1. Prepare the casings for usage!: If they were encased in salt, make sure you clean that stuff off. Then put it on your handy, dandy meat grinder with the sausage making attachment. I use a Kitchen Aid Mixer with the sausage attachment. I also tend to only use the large dye, no matter what. I don't know what it is, but I just like sausage chunky. If I have to, I'll run the meat through once without the sausage attachment, just the grinder alone, and then run it through a second time into the sausage using the large dye both times.
    2. Pre-Mix: In a large bowl, mix the meat parts with all that ground stuff. When appropriately mixed, add the wine and mix some more.
    3. Make sausages: Start-a-feedin' the sausage grinder-stuffer. Don't press too hard down on the sausage in the feeding process, but a little pressure won't kill the grinder. Tie off the sausages every 4-8".
    4. Fry one up and eat it, or use in the cassoulet.

    Duck Confit

  • 3 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Five Spice [optional]
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 5# duck
  • 1# lard or duck fat (in spanish, manteca)
  • 6 garlic cloves

    1. Prepare duck rub: Combine the ingredients prior to the duck in a spice grinder. Whirrrrrrr!
    2. Check the duck: Make sure the duck is cleaned out. We don't need a bag of innards sitting in the inside cavity of the duck while you cook it. Keep them though. Duck innards is good eatin'! Keep the gizzards for this dish, but the rest...maybe for a latter day snack.
    3. Chop the duck: Not in small pieces. Cut the duck up like a normal human would. The pieces that you should use for the duck confit are the 2 breasts (with skin), the 2 legs (with skin), the 2 wings (with skin). Do not throw out the carcass yet [see special recipe at end of this].
    4. Jam that rub: Take the rub and rub it on the duck skin and all lil parts of the duck. Don't be shy.
    5. Bathe the duck: Heat a good size pot over medium heat. Add the fat and liquify. Place the duck pieces, including the gizzard, and the whole cloves of garlic in the oil. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-lowish-low. Simmer for 75 minutes.
    6. Store the fatty duck in fat: Get an earthenware container that can hold the duck pieces. Put the duck pieces (inc. gizzard) in the container. Pour the fat from the dish through a strainer into the container to cover. Let stand till thoroughly cold. Cover closely and refrigerate for weeks (or a couple minutes depending on when you want to eat them).

    Roast Pork Loin

  • 2.5 # pork tenderloin
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to cover
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 Tb olive oil

    1. Oven Heat!: Preheat the oven to 400F.
    2. Prepare the Pork: Slice the garlic into slivers. Jab your knife into the pork and insert garlic cloves all over the pork. Salt and pepper the outside of the pork.
    3. First Cooking: Put the pork on a roasting pan and bake 20 minutes.
    4. Second Cooking: Rotate pork 90 degrees and bake 20 more minutes.
    5. Glaze the Pork: Combine the molasses and olive oil in a container and mix sorta. Brush the glaze over the pork.
    6. Final Cooking: Put aluminum foil over the pork very loosely and bake for 20 more minutes.
    7. Eat or use in cassoulet.

    Lamb Ragout

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp anise seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2.5 # lamb, cut into 2" chunks
  • 2 Tb duck fat, lard or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (approx 1 c.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 c. white wine (I tend to use the ubiquitous Picpoul de Pinel, but some crisp, cheap, non-oaky wine will do)
  • 3 Tb tomato paste
  • 2 c. stock (well, you could use lamb stock if you have it, or dark chicken stock, or normal chicken stock)
  • 4 sprigs of thyme or 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 c. parsley leaves

    1. Make the rub: Grind the first 5 ingredients in a spice grinder.
    2. Rub the rub: all over the lamb chunks.
    3. Brown the lamb: In a heavy, coverable skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil up. Add the lamb when the oil is at the right temperature (just about smoke point for the olive oil) and brown the lamb on all sides. Approximately 6-10 minutes.
    4. Add vegetable nutrients: Add onions and garlic and brown for 5 minutes.
    5. Simmerify the Wine: if you can remove excess fat from the dish, do so. If not, all ok. Add wine and boil it for 1 minute.
    6. Further simmerifying: Add the tomato paste and saute for 1-2 minutes.
    7. Even further simmerifying: Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Cover tightly, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour.
    8. Eat! or use in the Cassoulet today, tomorrow or the next day.

    The Cassoulet

  • 1.5 # dried cannellini beans
  • 3 qt water
  • 1 large onion, halved, stuck with 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 carrot
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 # salt pork with rind
  • 1 # garlic sausage (above recipe - you can add 1/2 # more if you need it)
  • 2 Tb duck fat
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Lamb ragout (above recipe)
  • Duck config (above recipe)
  • Roast Pork (above recipe)
  • 1/3 c. toasted bread crumbs made from real bread
  • 3 Tb melted butter

    1. Bean Prep: Scan the dried beans for rocks and lousy beans. Put them in a large soup pan. Cover with the water. Add onion, bay leaf, carrot, salt, pepper and salt pork. Prick the garlic sausage in a few places and add to the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
    2. Remove the sausage and set aside. Continue cooking beans for 30 minutes.
    3. Remove the salt pork. Slice off the rind from the salt pork. Return salt pork to the beans. Cut the rind into 1/4" pieces and reserve. Continue cooking beans for 30 minutes or until beans are tender.
    4. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the duck fat and add garlic, the diced pork rind and the chopped onions. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring often.
    5. Drain and reserve the beans, salt pork and cooking liquid. Discard the onion and bay leaf.
    6. Preheat oven to 400 F.
    7. Prep the Layers: In a large soup pan over medium-high heat, put in the beans, the tomato-onion mixture and the lamb ragout. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
    8. Cut the salt pork into 8-12 slices and set aside. Cut the garlic sausage into 1/2" slices.
    9. Put the duck confit into a pan you can warm, and warm it for a few minutes after the oil liquifies. Pull the meat out and pull the meat from the bones, slicing into edible pieces.
    10. Slice the roast pork into 12 slices.
    11. Finale: Get a large cassoulet pot.
    12. Spoon 1/3 bean mixture into the pot. Arrange pork slices over them. Spoon next 1/3 of the beans over the pork. Arrange duck meat over the beans. Spoon remaining beans over the top. Arrange salt pork and garlic sausage slices over the top. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top. Dot melted butter over the bread crumbs.
    13. Bake 30 minutes. Check midway through and add some bean liquid if it looks a bit dry. When ready, the cassoulet should be hot and bubbly. Oh and good.