Friday, January 14, 2011

Hearty Winter Stew - The French Way

How many days does that recipe say?  Seriously, how many?  We've certainly cooked over many days before, but that's because we have a whole bunch of dishes going on for one special event and not just one dish that needs that many days all to itself.  Is it a deal breaker?  Absolutely not!  Does it test the limit of our advance planning?  Yeah, pretty much!

Shortly after learning of this challenge we were out at a local(ish) restaurant where we found their version of this challenge worth an exploration.  It was yummy and hearty and yummy!  The exploring only strengthed our interest in having a go at this ourselves - far out weighing our scheduling concerns.

Ok, off we go...

Duck Confit

The first step is get the duck turned into duck confit.  Nothing complicated about the process.  We learned that one of our Moderately Convenient Specialty Grocery stores always has Duck and Duck Fat way back when we did our first challenge so had nothing to be stressed about rounding everything up.

Day 1

Our kind of kitchen day...  Locate product in fridge...  Unwrap product...  Salt product...  Cover product...  Return product to fridge...  Nothing to see here, move along...

Day 2

Back to the fridge...  Nothing complicated here.  Everything went along as expected, although we gave it a bit more than an hour looking for the ankle skin to have pulled away. You can definitely smell something cooking from about halfway through the process.

Be very careful removing it from the oven - it sloshes.  Our small spill hit the open oven door and apart from a little bit of smoke no harm done, but it wouldn't have taken much more of a spill for one, two, three or even four feet to have been complaining quite loudly.  Please, be careful.

Once the danger has passed, you get to enjoy the smells (mostly the rosemary) for another couple of hours before back to the fridge it goes.  Our place was quite warm this day so a more normal temperatured home might loose the smells sooner.


It looked like the example pictures, both pre cooled and cooled.  We enjoyed the cooking smell throughout the house.  We did not have to visit the hospital.  Success, no doubt.  Catch is, we were preparing it as part of something grander so didn't get to taste at this stage.  Not the end of the world, but we were curious - hindsight says we should have done an extra leg for the chefs...

Those fancy restaurants sure make it sound a whole lot more complicated than it really is.  We're glad we now have this technique in our back pockets!


Turns out Pork Belly is only occasionally at one of our 'special requirement' food stores and Pork Rind only in a different one and only of the cooked crispy style.  A bit harder to round up the ingredients, but on the plus side we ventured to a Meat Market that was on our to-do list (we were told by a friend we should get to it) and as often the case with hindsight, we should have gone much sooner.  Perhaps it has even bumped our other stores down a bit on the list the next time we need a non-standard meat product (actually, if it was closer to home we'd probably go for all our meat products). In the 2 day kerfuffle of trying to find the Pork Products we forgot about everything else and needed an emergency run to the store once things had begun - oh well.

Day 1

Actually easier than Day 1 for the Confit and if you're not spanning your project over two weekends like us, could be done concurrently with Day 2 of the Confit.

Beans in (big) bowl...  Water in bowl...  Nothing to see here, move along...

Day 2

This is where the fun begins.  WOW!  Did those beans 'grow'.  Actually, we thought they grew too much so ended up reducing the amount used by about a third - if we had have used all the beans recommended our pot wouldn't have had much room for anything else. 

Due to our shopping deficiencies we didn't have an onion to cut into 4 so we used the last 10 or 12 pearl onions we had left over from something else.  It couldn't have hurt the dish, but it sure took a whole lot longer to peel them.  We also didn't have any parsley, but seeing we had rosemary left over from the Confit we thought it an inexact, but acceptable switch.  But otherwise, it's certainly is easy enough to get everything into the pot and get it bubbling away happily.  Were we supposed to remove the Skin (aka Rind) from the Pork Belly?  We didn't but kind of feel like we should have now that we've seen the finished product.

We used up at least the two 30 minute blocks suggested to get the beans right but that's ok, because almost the second you get it up to a boil wonderful smells start to fill the kitchen and soon after the rest of the house.

We thought we were clever by multi-tasking so got the sausages going prior to the beans being ready.  However, this came to a screeching halt seeing we had to wait for the Pork Rind before doing the onions. 

Day 2¼

Only applicable if you had kerfuffling issues...  Curse that you have to put your boots back on...  Back to the store...  Finish off your shopping list...  Get the boots off hopefully for the last time...

Day 2½

Now we've got Onions and the Pork Rind is ready...  Pork Belly & Pork Rind set aside, Herbs removed and disposed of (a little bit ineloquently because the rosemary leaves came off their stalks), liquid removed and put carefully to the side.  Easy & check, check, check.

The Onion / Rind mixture cooks up easily enough and the blender did a smashing job.  Ours wasn't quite as dark as the pictures provided but we thought it tasted ok.

To line?  Or not to line?  That is the question...  Our hosts weren't convinced regarding the lining of the pot and kind of left it open for discussion.  We had enough Rind (although not one big piece) and figured if it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it's certainly good enough for us.  We didn't have the pieces to hang over the edge like the pictures but we got a good cover on the bottom and perhaps the bottom 3rd of the sides.

Stacking everything in the pot was easy enough.  We perhaps could have gone a little heavier on the Onion / Rind mixture and we're certainly glad we cut back on the beans because there's no way we could have gotten everything in our pot.  The recipe says to just barely cover everything with the previously saved cooking liquid and save some for later.  We barely covered everything with what we had, so had nothing to save for later.  It doesn't seem like we suffered for this 'quirk'.

Yay!  There's some more of those wonderful smells coming from oven, through the kitchen and out into the rest of the house!

Other than taking up a good portion of our fridge, we're not really sure why we couldn't just eat it today.  Again, if Anthony thinks it's a good idea, so do we...

Day 3

Back into the oven.

This is where we may have gone a little off track.  Step 3 of Day 3 of the Recipe talks about breaking the crust.  Hmph!  We never saw a crust.  We also never ran low on the Cooking Liquid so didn't need to go hunting for that reserve we didn't have.  We did do all of Day 2 oven cooking with the lid on, so maybe that's where we messed up in terms of getting a crust?  We left the lid off for Day 3 hoping to see a crust develop, but alas...  We're a little curious as to how this difference may have affected the outcome of the dish.

Best of all, we finally got to eat it!  We do believe our patience was rewarded!

Day 6

Enjoy leftovers!



The house smelled wonderful (each time something was bubbling away)!  Unctuous seems the right word to use!  It doesn't need sides, filling you up just nicely.  There's lots going on and together make a great mix but you can still easily find each individual component's character and charm.

We have no idea if the Rind on the bottom of the pot made everything better or not.  We're going to believe that it did!  But, we didn't have a big slab type piece so during serving we did have to work around it a bit - nothing to stress over, it is what it is.  We also picked off the Rind from the Pork Belly during eating because it seemed the right thing to do.

The sauce thickened up some - not too much and not too little we think.

We could have had friends over to share and been proud of our efforts and result.  We chose not to in the end, and are glad we didn't because we got to eat it twice - in the same week.  Not sure how long the leftovers might be good for, but the 3 days we waited did no harm.

Tip:  Don't leave any left over onion / pork rind mixture in your blender / processor over night - yeah, yeah don't leave anything out overnight is a better tip...  It sets, kind of like a glue - fortunately closer to the kinder-garden paste end of the scale than the crazy glue end...

Recipes & Destructions Instructions



It's a commitment.  Not one we're sorry we made, but one we might struggle to make short of the need to impress a whole lot some friends.  The Confit on it's own has earned a place in the front of our recipe folder so for that we're thankful although we're not exactly sure how we'll make use of it just yet.

To celebrate the momentous project called Cassoulet we called upon a Companion from the French way of life, our Château Rose Cantegrit. A pretty good pairing overall, which seemed the way it would work out since the Tasting Notes suggested Duck Confit.  Even if you don't have something French tucked away in your cellar (or pantry, or box under the stairs) we think it fair to suggest strongly that you find something red and bigger (within your own wine drinking preferences / limits / pleasures, of course) than average to enjoy with your Cassoulet.


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.

Comments pre Blog Platform Change

Barb responded:
This sounds great! I didn't get a lot of a crust either as it cooked, hence my idea to add bread crumb topping for a bit of texture. I love the idea of the wine pairing - all I had on hand was white, which was good but it really did seem to be asking for a red.

Lisa responded:
LOVED reading your write up as always! So glad you guys took part, and most importantly...thrilled that you loved it (even not minding the pork Unctuous is the perfect word to describe the confit and cassoulet, wish I had thought of that.

Audax Artifex responded:
WOW I always love visiting your blog it is always so interesting and unique (no pictures) your writing style really makes the process come to life. Wonderful that you liked it so much and yes confit is a keeper it is simple and produces a stunning result.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Shelley C responded:
I love reading your write ups! I think I like days 2 1/4 and 6 the best on this one. :) Really great job on the challenge - sounds FANTASTIC! :)

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz responded:
Poor you for all those extra grocery runs...but worth it in the end. I bet it as great 3 days later as a left over and the wine sounds delish!

blepharisma responded:
You made the process sound like an adventure! hahaha... I think I did the same with the beans - didn't feel like it needed the amount in the recipe, so I used less. I think it was better for it, too. Didn't want all the nice broth to disappear!

Lou responded:
Ha ha - I love the humour in your writing! Well done.

Mary responded:
What an adventure! It all sounds so delicious that I'm convinced I need to do a full-on meaty version. But not today.

Sarah responded:
I feel like I was there with you when you made it...! I bet I would have a 2 3/4 update as well given my track record. Great work! My favorite phrase very well may be "Moderately Convenient Specialty Grocery stores."

Oggi responded:
I love your sense of humor and enjoyed reading your cassoulet adventure.:)

Suz responded:
This was such a great read (as always) and your cassoulet sounds like a real success. Yum!

Monkeyshines responded:
Love the tale of the multi-day cassoulet! It really is worth the time. A great place to experiment - no recipe for cassoulet should be followed exactly either :-)

Pia (Taga_luto) responded:
Hi, David and Stacy! Kudos to your blog style. who needs pictures when we we are living vicariously by reading your blog=;) I too loved, the smell as i was frying the meats and as it was cooking away.

Kitchen Butterfly responded:
I loved the summary of the cassoulet. It was a dish that suprised me to no end. I love ...we didn't have an onion. Glad I have found companions!

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