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…
Spring can’t get here fast enough. I’ll even leave behind my precious cassoulet for it.
recipe after the jump
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.)
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.