Second Martha Stewart gave me masses of duck confit and special food calling for special treatment. Cassoulet sprang to mind. Mmmm! I've never blogged about that. So here we go.
The first one that I tasted, in a weird little cafe/nightclub combo in the Auvergne was a revelation. It's one of those meals that I still remember, like the fried eggs with the runny yolks that I had as my first meal on returning from hospital after giving birth. There's a plethora of recipes on the Internet but which one? Eventually I turned to the Guardian. As you do if you're a pinko leftie. They have a series where they de-construct many recipes to come up with a perfect version of dishes. The cassoulet, on which mine was roughly based is here. It looks a bit of a pfaff but it's okay if you start cooking the night before and leave a bit of time for sourcing ingredients
Goodness knows where you find duck confit if you haven't got a gastronomic Fairy Godmother so ha! I'll leave that to you. The belly pork was easy to find but I replaced the unsmoked ham hock that the recipe called for with a smoked one because that's all they had in the butchers. It tasted fine to me but I expect somewhere a proper foodie will be throwing their hands up in horror. Garlicky French-style sausages? It just shows that the recipe was written by a posh Londoner with a plethora of artisan delis within a stone's throw. These are harder to source in Devon so I used the Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' Toulouse-style sausage. Adequate but I might be track down some more authentic for Cassoulet Mk 2. There was another substitution. Dried cannellini beans replaced haricot beans. They were the nearest thing they had in Sainsbury's, the third store I'd tried to source the ingredient. By then I was losing the will to live.
The Night Before the Night Before
- Soak 800g cannellini beans. That's an awful lot of beans that take an awful lot of water!
The Night Before
- Boil the cannellini beans, a whole unpeeled head of garlic, a whole peeled onion and the ham hock. I didn't have thyme so added a few sprigs of rosemary. The beans were done in about ninety minutes. After removing them and the garlic, I left the hock to boil for another hour until tender.
- Throw away the onion but keep all the other stuff that's been boiled to within an inch of its life.
- Once the hock was cooled I stripped it of meat.
- Pop the beans in the slow cooker bowl. Realise that there isn't a hope in hell that all the ingredients will fit. Revert to the boiling pan as a substitute casserole dish.
- Defrost the confit
The Morning of The Feast
- Wade into the confit packet. This is a task that the nightmares of Gwyneth Paltrow might be made of. The duck is covered in loads of its own fat. Melt some in a pan. Put the rest in a dinky little bowl in the fridge to join the squishy garlic clove and the ham.
- Fry cubes of belly pork and the duck meat. The recipe said to add the duck too but it already looked cooked to me so I went off piste.
- Then amalgamate everything in your biggest saucepan, the meats, beans, a bit more duck fat, a great big squirt of tomato puree squishy garlic squeezed from its cloves and 2 crushed cloves of fresh garlic. This is a French dish after all. Top with breadcrumbs.
- Pop in fridge and go to work.
- On return pour a beer, pop on the oven to 140 degrees and shove saucepan in the oven for a couple of hours. Take out halfway through, stir in breadcrumbs and add more to the top. Cook until crispy. Bloody delicious. Way more yummy than those pictures would ever suggest!
Serves an army!