I am a huge proponent of all things comforting. From cozying up with a good book on a rainy day to sipping a frothy cappuccino while surfing Facebook, I love the warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment that goes hand in hand with my favorite things.
I also like Snuggies.
In fact, I’m draped in a huge, purple, LSU-patterned Snuggie as we speak. It’s pretty fantastic. I wasn’t sure that it would be, but it is pretty fantastic.
You know what else is unexpectedly fantastic? 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.
I had my doubts about this dish as its varying aromas wafted through my house over the course of its three-day journey to my tummy. Since I chose to use a garlic confit* rather than the regular duck version, the first day presented me with the distinct presence of everything pungent and garlicky. After peeling nearly fifty cloves of the stuff, my kitchen smelled like garlic, my cutting board smelled like garlic, and my hands smelled like garlic. By the time the confit was baked and chilled, I wasn’t entirely feeling the love.
*If you’re like me at the beginning of this challenge (i.e., completely unaware of what confit really is) allow me to explain. Simply put, confit is a manner of preserving food by cooking it in fat and storing it covered in that fat. I’m not entirely sure how long it lasted in the days of old, but nowadays it just hangs out in the fridge for a few days until you toss it in a pot of Cassoulet.
The next day brought the bulk of the work involved with this intensive dish. Preparing the Cassoulet for the oven consisted of first boiling the beans, bacon, and pork butt (adapted from beans, pork rind, and pork belly in this case) for about an hour. Once I completed that round, I cooked the sausage and then sautéed some onion and garlic in the remaining fat, having forgotten to toss in the bacon from the bean mixture along with them. The whole mixture had almost another three hours to party in the oven, so I figured it would still turn out just fine.
Once all of the pieces were ready, everything got layered in a casserole dish and baked for a couple hours. Then it chilled in the fridge overnight and baked for another hour or so the next day. Phew!
Throughout the process of making this Cassoulet, the smells emitting from the oven left me vaguely uneasy. On one hand, it smelled slightly good, yet slightly odd—kinda like French Chinese food. Interesting? Yes. Delicious? Not necessarily.
However, the second I tried a taste of the finished product, all my worries instantly disappeared as everything melted together in the perfect mild, savory bite. The beans were buttery soft and blended seamlessly with the roasted garlic cloves and other seasonings, all of it punctuated with yummy bits of sausage, bacon, and pork chunks. It’s such a unique taste that I can hardly describe it—it’s like learning about a completely new flavor. While this dish was clearly labor-intensive and hardly diet-friendly, it definitely has made my list of comfort foods and favorite things…even if it involved consuming entire cloves of garlic. As long as I keep my distance from those around me, it’s a delightful treat for one and all!
For all the Cassoulet info, hop on over to the Daring Kitchen.