Earlier this week, I volunteered to make a cassoulet for the final farewell dinner before friends go home, and Peter and I take the train to Paris.
Make that two cassoulets because there were ten of us.
Thursday, I soaked a kilo of white beans and Friday morning I cooked them with parsley and thyme from the garden. Then, after lunch, I got serious. First I chopped two carrots, two onions, two celery sticks and six garlic cloves, not coarsely, not finely but somewhere in between. After I'd sautéed these in olive oil for a few minutes, I threw in two or three chopped tomatoes (one large and two small). Once everything had softened slightly, I mixed the veggies with the beans. These all fitted in the big copper pot--just.
Leek leaves went around bay leaves, thyme and parsley, and were tied into two tidy little bundles with the string from the enormous roll--butcher's string I think--that I bought at last Sunday's vide grenier. I buried these in the beans, added chunks of semi-sel pork belly, chicken stock and water, and cooked it all for about two hours until the "soupiness" disappeared but there was still lots of juice.
Pale sausages and flabby duck skin aren't favourites with anyone. I cut a big coil of saucisse fraîche into manageable lengths and browned them in the frying pan. Friends Wes and Antonya had contributed three big jars of duck confit. I fished the legs out of their yellowy fat (oh yes, I saved it) and browned the legs in the oven which also got rid of excess fat which I also poured into the big glass jar.
Now, it was time to put it all together using the copper pot and the large pottery cassole. A layer of sausages on the bottom, then the bean mixture, a shake of salt and pepper, and repeat. Finally, I semi-submerged the duck confit chunks.
Our oven couldn't hold it all so we carefully put the two pots on planks of wood in the rear of the Clio and drove them over to the gîte that would be the site of the evening's revelry. The oven there would only accommodate one pot so the second went across the impasse into the kitchen at the Impasse du Temple, the B and B where some friends were staying. We sprinkled dried bread crumbs on both cassoulets. An hour or so later, dark gold, crispy and bubbling, they came out of the oven and went on the table. See photo of the two cassoulets, empty plates and expectant expressions.