What the heck is a cassoulet? I had heard the word before, but wasn’t too sure what it was before it became the Daring Cooks’ challenge for January.
Cassoulet is a particular kind of white bean stew that originated in France. It’s become one of those dishes that ignite debates over who made it first, and what recipe is authentic. Sorry to offend, folks, but mine isn’t especially “authentic”, being vegetarian. There is usually a lot of meat involved.
One of the things that you see in many cassoulet recipes is duck confit. One of the requirements of the challenge was to make some kind of confit, and again there were some veggie options. I had to look up what a confit was, exactly, since I’ve always heard it associated with duck. Basically, ‘confit’ is used to describe a few things, in particular a method of preserving food by cooking it in a fat. In the case of meats, they are usually cooked in their own fats. For things like garlic, it is cooked in oil.
I made garlic confit.
So what exactly does one use garlic confit for? You can use it much the same way you might use a baked garlic – the cooking process mellows out the flavours, and gives it a creamy spreadable texture. This makes it (and the oil it’s cooked and stored in) easy to use in dips, soups, sauces… just about anything. Being a big lover of garlic, I thought this would be a fun thing to try making.
That done, I had to decide how to retain the spirit of a cassoulet without the meat. I opted to make the seitan sausages from last month’s challenge, and use them in the stew. I also added some smoked paprika to add some depth to the flavour.
I’m pretty sure it didn’t taste like a real cassoulet, but it was really good!
Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
Recipes after the jump!
Modified from the recipe in Gourmet Magazine, March 2008.
- 6 campari-sized tomatoes, halved (or 3 roma)
- 2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed and cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
- 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
- 4-6 cloves, garlic confit
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil (I used the oil from the garlic confit)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
- 2 (19-oz/540 gm) cans Cannellini/White Kidney or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 vegetarian sausage, sliced (I made seitan sausages)
- 1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) vegetable stock
- 3-4 slices of day-old bread
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- On a baking sheet, spread out halved tomatoes cut side up. Sprinkle with a little bit of oil and bake until soft and starting to brown on top.
- In a pot that can be transferred from stove to oven, heat a tablespoon of the oil with the smoked paprika. Brown the seitan sausage. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To the pot, add leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, oil, herb sprigs, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in beans, seitan sausages, roasted tomatoes and stock.
- Cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook until carrots are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
- Raise heat to 400 degrees, and put back into the oven for about 20 minutes.
- Arrange bread slices on baking sheet, and brush with a little bit of the garlic oil. Put in the oven for about 5-10 minutes – just enough to toast the bread. Slice into squares (will be used to top the stew).
- If necessary, spoon excess oil from the top of the cassoulet.
- Discard bay leaf.
- Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve, with some pieces of the toasted bread in the bowl.
- garlic cloves, peeled (enough to fill your jar/container)
- olive oil (enough to cover your garlic in the cooking vessel)
- whole black peppercorns (about 10 per cup of garlic cloves)
- 1 bay leaf
- Place garlic in a single layer in a sauce pan. The pan shouldn’t be much bigger than the layer of garlic – too big of a pot/pan will require more olive oil in order to cover the garlic.
- Completely cover the garlic with olive oil. Add the peppercorns and bay leaf.
- Start by heating the pan on medium heat. Once bubbles start to appear, turn the heat to low and keep at a very low simmer. You don’t want to boil the oil.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the garlic cloves are soft.
- Take off the heat and allow everything to cool before putting into an airtight container. As long as the garlic is covered in the oil, it can keep for about 2 weeks.