Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Cassoulet-- Bean There?
.Regional dishes like Bouillabaisse and Cassoulet bring forth many opinions and great after dinner discussions. We had our Cassoulet cooking class last week and armed with a well stocked larder and fridge, volumes by Curnonsky, Robert Courtine and Paula Wolfert I began to plan the day. The more I read about regional dishes the more convinced I become of the importance of seasonal ingredients and the variations that give rise to subtle differences in these great dishes.
We planned to do four different Cassoulet using different beans and preserved meats in each.
A good line up of ingredients was assembled including duck confit [some of it truffled] a whole wind dried ham dissected into its major cuts and its skin, some of Jonathan’s Toulouse sausages, some fine chorizo, some dried smoked turkey and turkey confit, salted pork and fresh pork skin, unsmoked bacon, fat from a confit and a little cotechino. Goose was hard to get but Mick Tennant in Gold St Collingwood can get it for you.
We also had some good stock, haricot beans, green du Puy style lentils, lima beans, flageolet beans and home made bread-crumbbs from good sourdough bread.
Those of us who are looking for a definitive version of anything I am convinced are missing the point in cooking. The best coffee, the best smoked salmon, the best bread; it’s all a question of being in the moment.
So with that out of the way we simply created 4 dishes along the lines of Wolfert’s odyssey as outlined in her recently re-published book ‘The Cooking of the South-West of France.’
Some personal observations.
Yes pork skin is invaluable to add that unctuousness or richness but you can achieve it with cotechino if you do not have pork skin.
The beans give an overall timbre to the dish and the soaked and peeled Lima beans gave the creamiest deliciousness to one of them.
The smoked meats came from a very good source and did not have that overpowering smokiness that some commercial smallgoods have, so lightly smoked is good.
Salt is very important but best adjusted after cooking as the beans cook easier when not over-salted and some of the preserved meats can leach lots of saltiness into the dish.
One of Wolfert’s favourite Cassoulet after trying many highlighted in her book was with lentils, duck fat, pork confit and Chorizo and we too found it a winner. Sadly I did not have any fresh broad beans so I could not do her favourite but the question I ask is that when fresh and dried broad beans are available it may not be cold enough to indulge?
This is a dish for a cold winters’ day with not much planned for the next day.
A good marc helps to settle the after-effects and certainly adds to the mellowness of the experience.