I’m still mourning the sudden death of my beloved Gourmet Magazine. To tell you the truth, I have a shrine-like shelf dedicated to the back issues I had collected over the years. Often, I would snuggle into my favorite chair and carefully turn each mouth-watering, glossy page and read it like it was a hot and heavy romantic novel.
Recently, the publisher of Gourmet Magazine has released several Special Editions, collections of recipes from the past, organized by themes such as “Easy 30-Minute Meals” and my latest issue, “Holidays.” Although they could never be added to my shrine of original issues, being the sincere, greedy addict that I am, I have been grabbing them off the newsstands and pretending that Gourmet Magazine is reborn.
Since I started to cook again three years ago, I had to confront my fears—I’m embarrassingly squeamish about handling raw meats. I started out learning all about beef, then chicken, and this year, my wish is to befriend pork dishes. My husband’s favorite meal is the Classic Cassoulet, a mélange of his favorites: duck confit, braised pork, sausage and beans. It was time for me to finally spend some quality time with my new friend.
I found the Classic Cassoulet recipe in my Gourmet Magazine Special Edition. It indicates a total time prep time of 4 1/2 hours, with an active cooking time of 45 minutes. I naively and overconfidently thought I could finish reading the Sunday Times in between cooking—clearly, it had been a very long time since I tackled a classic French recipe. This dish needed tender, loving babysitting with plenty of fuss, but for me, I had a blast.
The instructions resembled my cooking school textbooks, but it works. The timing, seasoning and techniques are all correct and sometimes—in many ways—genius. And the end result is deliciously sublime.
Decoding the recipe with my own notes and view full recipe click here.
Read the recipe out loud about three times, I tripped and struggled with the instructions at first, but the best technique I had learned from the past is to visualize. Literally, visualize actually skimming the fat and planning the next move according to the instructions.
Break down the recipe into a simple outline. Make the slow-pork stock, cook the beans in it, brown the duck, separate the broth and the beans, put everything all together with the pork, beans and the duck and bake halfway. Add the sausage and bake some more until finished. Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs and serve.
Use canned beans: they taste completely differently than dried beans and the integrity of this recipe requires you to cook the beans slowly in pork stock. I always soak my beans the night before; it’s worth the extra step. (It broke my heart to read the reviews on Epicurious. Please stay true to this recipe, for there are no short cuts. The leftovers are divine for an entire week (if there are any leftovers).
This is what bouquet garni looks like—the soul of the stock.
Simmer=Bring the liquid to a boil first, and then bring the heat down to low—medium heat to gently simmer. Skim constantly without wasting the liquid. The stock should be clean and clear.
If you’re in NYC:
**But, you still have to order the sausage from D’Artagnan.
Seasoning: I was fretting for the entire 4-1/2 hours about not seasoning until the very end—but it works and it’s genius.
One thing I cheated with: I used Organic Panko Bread Crumbs, don’t skip this step, the heavenly crunch adds depth and texture.
4 QT=16 cups
You will need a total of 3 Tablespoons of finely chopped garlic.
Holiday season is right around the corner, show off and impress your love ones….