I often take the spare hours on the weekend to attack a cooking project. Who's kidding who, I don't have spare time, but what I do is make the time. I tend to choose something fairly complicated that I wouldn't have time for during the week.
This month's Fine Cooking had an article on assembling a cassoulet. It's something I've always wanted to tackle. It's not simple, but ahh, is it ever good. The flavors are distinct, yet at the end they blend together as one.
Wikipedia describes a Cassoulet as:
(from Occitan caçolet [kæsəˈleɪ; Fr. kasuˈlɛ]) is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.
From perusing many different cookbooks, including Julia of course, I found that every region of France has a unique version. This is locavore food at its core. Whatever you have, you use. Some insist on duck confit, others lamb. I am not a french farmer's wife, so I do not have a natural leaning toward one. I relied on Fine Cooking's research for this delicious creation.
I'm not going to put the exact recipe on here, but please check out Fine Cooking. My only cheat was buying Duck confit from Zingerman's deli. I figure that overall it's not that big of a cop out. Also, I didn't do this all one one day. Saturday's jobs consisted of braising pork shoulder and soaking beans. Both need several hours, so it's great to complete those earlier than you when you plan to assemble.
What I am going to do is give you a photo version of the recipe. Hope you can follow along.
beans soaked overnight, then boiled with aromatics for 2 hours
vegetables sauteed one at a time in fat rendered from pancetta, then mixed with above beans
edwards breakfast sausages, seared for 5 minutes over med high heat
I love Zingerman's. Have I mentioned that before?!?!
bean and vegetable layer on bottom of casserole dish
meat layer: duck confit, braised pork shoulder (not individually pictured) and slices of sausage
topped with another bean & veggie layer
fresh bread crumbs to be mixed with grated parmesan and olive oil, added in several stages for a thick crispy layer that provides a wonderful contrast to the tender meats and velvety beans
(* My major mess up was not saving the bean liquid to pour back over the casserole. I improvised and instead used two cups of chicken stock poured into the edge. You should use enough to see the top of the liquid but not covering the beans)