Cassoulet of Anger and Acceptance

Lots of emotion went into this dish.

Anger (This weather is pissing me right off.)

Hope (Something comfort food-y would give The Finger to this snow!)

Dejection (But said snow has made it impossible to drive to the store.)

Acceptance (Maybe I’m stuck, but there must be odds and ends around here that’ll do.)

That’s really the four-stage story behind this cassoulet — the product of snow and laziness.

Looking around the general kitchen area, I spied with my little eye:
lamb shoulder cubes
1 beef shin bone
Rancho Gordo flageolet beans
World Spice Merchants‘ Herbes de Provence (with lavender)
…and enough tomatoes, onions, garlic and beef stock to fill in the blanks

And that was it. I called it cassoulet, though I make no claims to authenticity.

——————————

Hard to believe that in just a few months we’ll go from this…

to this…

Spring can’t get here fast enough. I’ll even leave behind my precious cassoulet for it.

recipe after the jump

Lamb Cassoulet

I looked around for recipes and apart from the super-authentic ones that pile on the meat, there didn’t seem to be much of a consensus, so I happily plowed ahead and surprised the heck out of myself. This was thoroughly incredible. It just shows the magic of a few good ingredients and a long, slow braise. So, you know, feel free to substitute at will and make your own cobbled-together cassoulet. I’ll bet you’ll be as happy as I was. By the way, I love layering flavors, so if I’d had a fennel bulb I surely would’ve thrown it in there to play off the Herbes de Provence and Herbsaint.

1 lb. flageolet beans (or substitute the traditional tarbais bean or more easily found great northern bean)
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb. lamb shoulder, cut into cubes
1 meaty beef shin bone
salt and pepper
2 medium onions, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup Herbsaint, Pastis or other anise-flavored alcohol
1/2 large can whole tomatoes, plus the juice
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
1 quart stock or water (plus a little extra)
bread crumbs (I made my own by toasting a few slices of Udi’s bread and whirring them in the food processor.)
olive oil

Rinse beans and pick through them, making sure to remove any small stones that may be mixed in. Place them in a large bowl cover with lots of water and soak overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Drain beans in colander and set aside.

Season the lamb shoulder and shin bone well with salt and pepper. Heat a 5 1/2- or 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat. [Enameled cast iron is perfect for this.] Add chopped bacon and cook until much of the fat has rendered. Remove bacon from pot with slotted spoon and add a little oil to the pot if the bottom looks a little dry.

Brown lamb and shin bone in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan. Set browned meat aside on a plate. Add onion, carrot and celery to pot, stirring until vegetables begin to soften, then mix in garlic and anchovy paste, cooking until fragrant. Deglaze with Herbsaint and cook until there’s no more liquid in the bottom of the pot. Add beans, tomatoes and herbs, stirring to distribute, then add stock or water to cover by about 3 inches.

Bring liquid to a boil, then cover pot with a layer foil before covering tightly with lid. Place in oven and braise for 7-8 hours, checking level of liquid every 3 hours or so to make sure things aren’t getting too dry in there. When beans are creamy and have absorbed much of the liquid, they’re done. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

You can continue from there, but this is even better if you cool it to room temperature and set it in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to serve, toss breadcrumbs with a little olive oil to moisten, spread over cassoulet (I do this in small portions instead of to the whole pot at once), and bake in a 350 degree oven until browned and crunchy.

9 Replies to “Cassoulet of Anger and Acceptance”

  1. Hang in there!
    I’ve been seeing footage of the blizzard on tv. It’s hard to relate to, since at the moment it’s so humid here that people are stepping outside and melting into puddles.
    The weather is insane over here too. We just had our second big hurricane of the season – and it was a category 5. Fortunately it didn’t hit a heavily populated area like it was supposed to …

  2. Gorgeous! Thank you for the blossom pic, the promise of spring, even seeing it on a computer screen helps me remember that it will arrive again. This post is a lovely way to give The Finger to winter, comforting and hopeful.

  3. Tina — I can’t believe you’re still dealing with insane weather. Last I heard, your brother was heading to a friend’s apartment several stories up! Hope all’s ok with you, despite the melting. (I never lost my taste for the heat, so I really don’t complain about it too much. It’s more fun to save up the bitching for winter, anyway.)

    Stephanie — Is this winter worse than usual for your area, too? It’s unrelenting in a way I’ve never experienced in my almost-20 years of living in snowy cities. The promise of a hint of green and warm breezes is what’s getting me through right now. (OK…that, and red wine.)

  4. Yeah, it has been pretty insane. The hurricane was a long way north, so the biggest risk to us was more rain (not good when everyone is still mopping up after the floods). All is OK though (my family was much luckier than many).
    I must go into deep denial every Winter (which isn’t really much of a Winter at all). I’ve lived here my whole life and every year the Summer heat and humidity comes as an unpleasant surprise!

    Hope the snow stops soon and the sun comes peeking through. I can definitely see how that would get you down.

  5. Hard to believe I don’t have any confit sitting around. That’s JUST the sort of project I love to do.

  6. When I read this recipe, I had only had cassoulet once before, and it was fantastic. I also love lamb, hands down. So when I saw this, I knew I’d have to eventually make it myself. I did, and it was absolutely incredible. I just want to share the joy of having this awesome dish. This really is an excellent recipe; most times when I look at something I’ll add more of a certain ingredient or change around the order or method, but here there was really no reason to do so. I added a bit more seasoning and garlic, plus a fennel bulb, but that’s about it. This was awesome. Now I have more left overs than I know what to do with, which is a very good thing.

  7. Hi Will – I’m glad you liked it! I’ve cooked a few cassoulets since this post and I think as long as you have the beans and the Herbes de Provence, you’ll be fine. My last one was a vegetarian version and I was just as happy with the flavor (maybe more so, since it didn’t weigh me down so much).

  8. I just have to say, I live near San Francisco and I went to this restaurant named Le Central which is known for its cassoulet, and although it’s a very good establishment, the recipe here made a much better dish than what I had.

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