Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cassoulet Journal Entry #2: Shopping and Prep

In the spirit of the informal, family-style nature of serving and eating cassoulet I decided I didn't want to do a formal menu. I don't really like fussy dinners where each guest is served an exquisitely prepared plate with a single scallop with a dollop of creme fraiche seasoned with the tears of an Arctic gray wolf.  I would much rather go to a dinner where simple, delicious food is served in a communal style. With that in mind, I came up with this plan:

To start:

-Raw oysters. Because there is nothing I could cook that would be more delicious than a good, fresh oyster with a spritz of lemon.

-Duck Pate. I wanted to use the whole duck if possible, and pate would make good use of the innards.

-Rounded out with some nice cured meats, and olives and the like.


-Cassoulet. 'Nuff said.


-Cheese course. Unquestionably the best dessert.

So that's it. I figure the cassoulet and the pate would give me enough trouble so why bother cooking anything else. Maybe it's not the most thoughtfully composed menu ever, but I can't imagine a more delicious and satisfying one. Quite wine friendly too...


I bought my duck from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm stand at the Union Square Greenmarket. The woman working the stand on this incredibly frigid morning was really helpful and knowledgeable and helped me pick out this beauty:

While at the market, I also bought some ground pork and bacon for the pate at the Roaming Acres Farm stand.  Great place for pork.

For the sausage I went to a place called Salumeria Biellese which was recommended to me by one of the people at Chambers Street Wines.

Super old-school, family owned, amazing products. They had the perfect, traditional style saucisson a l'ail (pork, red wine, garlic sausage), which I guess in Italy is called Cotechino. Natural casing, hand-tied with string, the whole 9...


After butchering the duck the first thing I did was marinate the duck legs and one of the breasts overnight in salt, black pepper, garlic, thyme and crushed up bay leaf.  

The plan is to confit the legs and later pan-sear the breast. While that was marinating I took all the extra skin and trimmings and rendered the fat by slowly melting it in a pot on low-heat. After the fat has rendered out you are left with pure duck fat, and duck skin "cracklings." 

The cracklings are sort of like crispy duck skin pork rinds or something. Incredibly delicious.

While the duck was marinating, I prepared the meats for the pate.

The one on top is ground pork, and the one on the bottom is duck breast, duck liver, and bits of fatty duck skin, each with thyme, garlic, 2 bay leaves, cognac, salt and pepper, and the duck one also has some black truffle mixed in.  These are left to marinate and cure for two nights in the fridge, before they are mixed, put in a terrine, and cooked.

to be continued...

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