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 just about passed on this challenge because, frankly, it looked and sounded very unappealing to me... something about the duck fat (not mention where would I find that.) I bet it would actually taste amazing, but I'm expecting and just didn't feel up to experimenting. But Amy pointed out the alternative "vegetarian" recipe at the bottom, and I'm glad she did. (I kind of feel like I really took the easy way out on this challenge... but hey, at least I kind of attempted. :) I was amazed you could get this much flavor and consistency without adding chicken broth or some sort of thickening agent. I'll admit, it probably wasn't the most amazing soup I've ever had, but it was pretty good and pretty healthy. I really liked the beans, but I think I might have added too much of the ground cloves and they are pretty strong. It kind of took over the dish. On the whole though, it was easy to make and tasted pretty good. We dipped homemade flat-bread in ours. Another challenge complete-ish. :)
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
1 qt (4 cups/960 ml) water
4 cups (960 ml) (300 gm) coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
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.