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Cassoulet :: The Long Way Round

January 30, 2012

Wtf? Couldn’t you have put in the extra effort and put a [useless] sprig of parsley on top of that?  Something green?  This is a rule of food blogging.  THE RULES!?

Well, yes, I suppose I could have done that.  I also could have taken the shortest road possible to make the most visually appealing dish, like photographing a Caprese salad or an adorable post on how to host sushi date night at home.  But it’s just not like that.  Long form Cassoulet is a process of taking the longest road possible to make the simplest of dishes.  Keyword, again: process.

Through most of my 20’s, I drove an old school maroon 1990 Volvo 240DL with a bike rack on top.  It was affectionately referred to as the “Bear Cave” (on wheels) by my friends.  We spent countless summer nights driving around seemingly aimlessly with the windows down and the radio turned up.  While we had no where to go, the process of driving was a catalyst for thinking through whatever happened to be swimming through your head at the time.  Similarly, the process of making cassoulet has a similar function for those of us that find therapy in the kitchen.

Here’s a Gordon Ramsay’s “F-Word” -esque description of what went into making this cassoulet – and this isn’t even a full traditional version:  Dry cure duck legs overnight, slow cook in duck fat for confit, store duck legs in duck fat in fridge for a week, warm and remove duck legs from fat, set duck legs aside.  Hot dutch oven.  Cubed bacon. Water.  Make lardons.  Bacon out.  Add sausages. Brown.  Out.  Brown duck confit.  Out.  Mirepoix, sweat. Add par-cooked white beans, toh-mah-to paste and browned meat, stock.  350 oven, 30 minutes.  Hot pan: butter, minced garlic, panko breadcrums…toast.  Add chopped parsley and stir.  Add half of the breadcrumb mixture on top of bean mixture, back in oven, uncovered, 20 minutes.  Add other half of breadcrumbs, 375 oven, 10 minutes.  Store overnight.  Crack open breadcrumb crust.  Add 1/2″ cup of stock. Reseal cassoulet crust.  350 oven, uncovered, 45 minutes.  Serve.  Cassoulet of duck confit, sausages, lardons?  DONE.

But why? Why all that effort if its not even, like, pretty?  I mean, I’m a foodie!  With a foodie food blog!  So naturally I eat with my eyes too, you know…

For those of us that cook and eat with our hearts on our sleeves, Cassoulet is damn near the perfect comfort food.  There will be times in each of our lives when, for one reason or another, food just doesn’t taste as good as if you were more than numb.  Chances are that you could give a damn about how your food looks, and even at your best you’re wholly unable to appreciate the challenge of a well stacked flavor profile.  For times like these, Cassoulet just makes sense: it’s a no-nonsense flavor that speaks straight to your soul.  If someone makes you a cassoulet out of the kindness of their heart and you go all #?@%ing “foodie” on it, nitpicking and deconstructing flavor notes and whatnot, chances are you’re missing the point entirely, with food, and in your own life altogether.  Cassoulet is good, and that’s it.

Now, a cassoulet + a long drive?  My old buddies will be coming into town for a long overdue dude weekend, and a long drive with a stack of CD’s will likely be in order.  Here goes.

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