Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daring Cooks: January-Hearty Winter Stew the French Way

So due to what people are calling the "Snowpacolypse," which it wasn't (4 inches of snow, the big problem was the inches of ice Atlanta does not have the salt to melt), the grocery stores were closed and/or out of produce, so I was a little delayed in completing my daring cooks challenge this month.  But I did, and it was good.  I give you the required lines and then I'll discuss.

Blog Checking Lines: 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.

The requirements were a confit and cassoulet.  The most traditional confit I can think of is duck, but I do not have access to duck.  So you could have made chicken.  But garlic confit sounded so much better to me, so that's what I made.  And spending 3 days making a pot of meat for the cassoulet sounded like something I was not interested in, so I made the veggie one, which quite honestly isn't that different from the kind of thing I usually eat in winter.  However, the garlic breadcrumbs were an extra thing I wouldn't usually make (and man, grating that baguette took forever and I cut myself), though they were tasty.  I was going to say they weren't worth it, but thinking about it, I think they were.  I will probably have leftovers though, and I think they would make an awesome glue for bean burgers.  And the garlic confit was something totally new and awesome.  Yes, you have to peel 65 cloves of garlic, but the result is essentially extra awesome roasted garlic AND garlic and thyme infused olive oil.  TOTALLY WORTH IT.  But my fingers still smell like garlic and I made this for lunch yesterday, washed my hands dozens of times, showered, etc.  We were supposed to "incorporate" the confit in the cassoulet, which I just took to mean "eat with," though I realized after I started cooking the vegetables that I should have cooked them in some of the infused olive oil, so I added a little of it, but I wish I had caught that sooner.  I'm going to need to be reminded to use that infused olive oil in my cooking.  Maybe I should have tried meat, but I'm still weaning myself back into that  (yes, that's right, I'm going to eat more meat this year, I hope, I even bought some tilapia, which I guess isn't meat, to try to have fun with) and I was quite pleased with the result as it was.  Oh, and I made challah (see my previous pseudo post) to go with it, which was a pretty awesome (but nonvegan) combination.  I'll include the recipes I used.  Like I said, I'd recommend making the confit first and using the infused olive oil in the cassoulet and bread crumbs.

Garlic ConfitGarlic Confit from Saveur, Issue #129
1½ cup (360 ml) Olive Oil
1½ tsp (7½ ml) (4 gm) kosher salt (**Note: if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
10 whole black peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh thyme
65 garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 ½ cups/360 ml)
1 dried bay leaf
1. Preheat oven to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2. Put ingredients in a 1 quart (950 ml) pot, making sure all the garlic is submerged in the oil. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap. Cover jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups/480 ml.
Bread crumbs out of the oven

Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet
Vegetarian Cassoulet by Gourmet Magazine, March 2008
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 (I ideally use dried beans I cook myself, but I only had a cup and a half of dried beans, so I cooked those and used a can.  The canned ones were better, I somehow can cook all beans EXCEPT cannellini)
1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) water
4 cups (960 ml) (300 gm) coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (I just used the part of a baguette I could avoid eating, and I had decent will power, so that was most of it)
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.

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