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.
I have always wanted to make cassoulet. It’s rich, comforting, and perfect for a wintry day. However, lately I’ve been focusing on lighter fare. (In addition, I looked at the challenge for the first time this week, and didn’t think I could spend the time needed, or get the duck legs I wanted, in time.) So while I will definitely make the traditional cassoulet one day soon, this month, I opted for a lighter, quicker version of the dish. I opted to go for a vegan cassoulet, and confit some garlic cloves.
The cassoulet came together relatively quickly. (I did opt to cook my own beans from dried, rather than canned. I used Stephanie’s slow cooker instructions, so the beans were ready when I came home from work. I think they taste better than canned, and they tend to be more digestible. An added bonus – they’re much lower in sodium.) This is one relaxing dish to make. As the aromatic vegetables cooked, the aroma was so comforting – a myriad of leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic wafted through the air. The act of slowly stirring beans in a pot soothes me – it’s not stressful, high-speed cooking. This is love in a pot.
My favorite part about the dish though had to be the breadcrumbs. I will have to confess – the gluten-free bread I used was not vegan. I had frozen Udi’s to use up – so I made breadcrumbs from that bread. (Udi’s uses eggs) However, you could use Carrie’s lovely vegan gluten-free bread and make it completely vegan. These breadcrumbs were so deliciously crisp, with the inticing bite of the garlic and freshness from the parsley. I snuck spoonfuls while in the kitchen. These breadcrumbs balanced the creamy beans perfectly.
All in all, I didn’t miss the rich components of a traditional cassoulet (or what I’d imagine it would be, I have never actually eaten it). This was so satisfying (and healthier). I’m looking forward to the leftovers!
Vegetarian Cassoulet by Gourmet Magazine, March 2008
(Note: we didn’t actually make this recipe, but we’re sure it’s a good one!)
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide (25 mm) pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (1 gm) ground cloves
3 (19-oz/540 gm) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) water
4 cups (960 ml) (300 gm) coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (12 gm) chopped garlic
1/4 cup (60 ml) (80 gm) chopped parsley
1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (13 mm) pieces, then wash well (see cooks’ note, below) and pat dry.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon (2½ mm) each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.