In honor of Julia Child’s one hundredth birthday Ken wanted to make something French … out comes Julia Child’s The French Chef’s Cookbook: Recipes from Julia Child’s celebrated first television series. ‘What shall we cook,’ he muses? Poulet en Cocotte (Whole Chicken Roasted in a Casserole), Filet of Beef Wellington, Ossobuco, or perhaps Poularde Demi-Desossee, Evocation Albufera (Partially Boned Chicken Poached in White Wine; Rice, Mushroom, and Chicken-Liver Stuffing; Curried Sauce)?
Yes, Cassouet. And not only is it Julia’s 100th, it’s Ken’s 47th and thus a birthday feast was planned and prepared.
Ken’s fascination with Cassoulet goes back to an early episode of Anthony Bourdain and the Le Halle cookbook, both of which made this French Baked Beans dish (which incidentally take 3 days to make) seem manageable. On one other occasion he came close to creating this delicious dish, but we lacked duck and duck fat. Yet, alas, we’ve come to find that duck is not essential and that Julia Child herself did not use it in Episode No. 39, entitled Cassoulet.
Following is the original recipe from Julia Child and our 3 day journey into the creation of cassoulet.
Julia Child’s Cassoulet (French Baked Beans)
INGREDIENTS (photo 1)
8 quart kettle containing 5 quarts of rapidly boiling water
5 cups dry white beans (Great Northern)
1/2lb fresh or salt pork rind
1 lb lean salt pork, simmered for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water
heavy sauce pan
1 C sliced onions
A large herb bouquet (parsley, 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp thyme, 2 bay leaves – tied in cheese cloth)
Drop beans into boiling water. Bring rapidly back to the boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let beans soak for 1 hour. Meanwhile, place pork rind in sauce pan with 1 quart of water, bring to boil, boil 1 minute. Drain pork rind, rinse in cold water and repeat the process. Then, with shears, cut rind into strips 1/4 inch wide, cut strips into small triangles. Place again into sauce pan, add 1 quart water, and simmer very slowly for 30 minutes; set sauce pan aside. (photo 2)
As soon as beans have soaked for 1 hour, add the salt pork, onions, herb packet, and pork rind with its cooking liquid to the kettle (photo 3). Bring to simmer, skim off scum, and simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 90 minutes or until beans are just tender. (photo 4) Add boiling water, if necessary during cooking, to keep beans covered. Season to taste with salt near end of cooking. Leave beans in cooking liquid until ready to use. (photo 5)
THE PORK (photos 6 & 7)
2 1/2lbs boned pork roast, excess fat removed
salt and pepper to taste
Roast the pork to an internal temperature of 175 degrees F (we went to 140 degrees). Set aside, reserving cooking juices.
2 1/2lbs boned shoulder of lamb (used 6 lamb loin chops as shoulder wasn’t available – separated the meat from the bones)
heavy flameproof casserole or large skillet
1 lb cracked lamb bones (used the bones from the lamb chops)
2 cups minced onions
4 cloves garlic, mashed
6 T tomato paste (used 1 small can)
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 C dry white vermouth
3 C beef bullion
1 C water
salt and pepper
Cut lamb into 2 inch chunks, brown a few pieces at a time in very hot cooking oil in the flameproof casserole or large skillet. Remove meat to a side dish, brown the bones, remove them, and brown the onions lightly. Drain out browning fat, return meat and bones, and stir in the garlic, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, wine, and bullion. Bring it to the simmer, season lightly, cover and simmer slowly for 90 minutes. (photo 8)
Discard bones and bay leaves, skim off fat, and season cooking juices to taste with salt and pepper.
HOMEMADE SAUSAGE CAKES
1 lb lean ground pork
1/3lb fresh ground pork fat
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
big pinch allspice
1/8 tsp crumbled bay leaf
1 small clove mashed garlic
optional – 1/4 C cognac
Beat all ingredients together; form into cakes two inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Brown lightly in a skillet, and drain on paper towels.
2 cups dry white bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced parsley
8 quart flameproof casserole or baking dish, 5 to 6 inches high
3 T melted butter
Drain the beans (photo 9), discard herb packet, and cut the salt pork into 1/4 inch serving slices. Cut the roast pork into 1 1/2 to 2 inch serving chunks (photo 10). Arrange a layer of beans in the bottom of baking dish. Cover with a layer of lamb, pork, salt pork, and sausage cakes. Repeat with layers of beans and meat, ending with a layer of sausage cakes (photos 11, 12, 13 & 14). Pour in the lamb cooking juices, pork roasting juices, and sufficient bean cooking liquid barely to cover the top layer of beans (photo 15). Mix bread crumbs and parsley together, spread over the beans and sausage cakes, and dribble on the butter. (photo 16) Set aside or refrigerate until ready for final cooking.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring casserole to the simmer on top of the stove, then set in upper third of preheated oven. (photo 17) When top has crusted lightly, in about 20 minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees. Break the crust into the beans with the back of a spoon, and baste with the liquid in the casserole. Repeat several times as the crust forms again, but leave a final crust intact for serving. If liquid becomes too thick add a few spoons full of bean cooking liquid. Cassoulet should bake for about an hour.
This is a heavy dish, best served as a noonday dinner on a cold day. First course of clear soup or oysters; a green salad with the cassoulet, and a strong, dry white or rose wine. Fruit for dessert, followed by a brisk walk.
Our cassoulet was DELICIOUS!
Meat very tender.
Ken reports that he has a new dish for his ‘comfort food’ list!