Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cassoulet Time!

Bonjour mes amis!  Zhere, now zhat I've set ze tone fa tooday's post, it is tam to get down to it! 

If I haven't offended any french readers yet then good.  This week has been spent working and plotting my attack on the famous french comfort food - Cassoulet.  There are probably 1,000 ways to make this dish depending where you look so now it's 1,001. 

But that's what makes it so wonderful!  You can adjust some of the ingredients by what you have in the refrigerator.  That was the idea when it was first made...to create a filling meal using what was left in the cupboard. 

So back to modern times.  While this is supposed to be a simple dish to make, it didn't start that way.  My biggest issue was the beans.  There is hardly an ingredient out there allowed in the Paleo diet that maintains the same consistency as a bean under long cooking.  Can't use white potatoes, can't use beans (duh), sweet potatoes will get mushy.  Pacing along the produce section I saw one of the ugliest items:  the celery root.


I know, hideous right?!  But I'd read some recipes with braised celery root and thought, why not?  Took it home, chopped it up and went to work. 

There was a female chef made very famous by her love for french cuisine.  Her name was Julia Child and she has one of the go-to recipes for cassoulet.  What Julia had that must of us don't have though is time.  Three to four days to prepare one meal?  NO THANK YOU.  This was one of the other problems I ran into because the beans are supposed to soak overnight and since I live in a cultural dead center, you can't find any type of poultry or fowl confit which means I would have had to make that part too.  And I'm sorry, I love all four of you who read this but i don't love you that much. 

Then there was the selection of meat.  A lot of recipes calls for lamb shank.  I'm not a huge proponent of killing a baby animal so this was another road block.  I only like eating the adult ones.  Lamb helps give the cassoulet it's rich texture with all the collagen you get from those bones.  But there's another underutilized meat product out there that gives you similar results; ox tails and beef short ribs!

 
Beautiful.  Give me a minute.  So everybody's together and ready to go.  Most of my test runs involved cooking some of these items first as Julia suggests then putting them all together for one last joint cooking.  This was taking far too long so I turned to my trusty cooking element, the Crock Pot.

Using the crock pot was a winner.  The only cooking you need to do before piling everybody into the pot is some browning of meats and simmering of sauces.  And because I'm not a classically trained chef, it only too me four *&#! hours to figure that out!  So here you are, after much swearing and hating on french people and maybe a little crying is my take on cassoulet.  Enjoy!

 
 
- Chomp Chomp
 
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Chateau Palo Cassoulet
Serves 6 - 8
 
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs celery root, chopped into "bean size"cubes
  • 1 lb salt pork or bacon, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 8 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion sliced
  • 5 tsps tomato paste
  • 1.5 c dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 3 c beef stock
  • coconut oil or bacon fat
  • 2 lbs beef short ribs
  • 1 lb ox tails
  • 1.5 lbs chicken thigh, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 lb sausage (I used kielbasa)
  • Almond meal or coconut flour (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Large skillet
  • Medium sauce pan
  • Crock Pot
1) Put your sauce pan over medium low heat and add the wine, beef stock, herbs and tomato paste.  Let this simmer while you work on the next step.
2) Get your skillet over (almost) high heat and drop in whatever you're using for cooking oil, around 2 tbsp.  When it has melted and is just starting to smoke, brown your meats a few pieces at a time.  You should only leave them on each side for 20-30 seconds tops.  Set the browned pieces aside to drain.
3) Place your onions in the skillet and cook them for 30 seconds to a minute, making sure to stir constantly.
3) When the meat has cooled, remove bones and chop into bite size pieces. 
4) Layer the bottom of your Crock pot with some of the celery "beans", enough to cover the bottom.  Add a layer of meat to the top of the beans.  Repeat with a layer of beans, then meat ending with a top layer of "beans."   
5) Taste the ingredients in the sauce pan.  If they need some salt or pepper, add that and stir.  Then pour this mixture into the Crock Pot.  It should be just up to the same level of the beans. 
6) Turn your Crock Pot on Low and cook for 2-3 hours. 

BONUS STEP- It's almost impossible to call this a cassoulet without the bread crumbs on top.  Typically you put some across the top, bake it for a few minutes, push that layer into the cassoulet, add more bread crumb and bake for a few more minutes.  Since bread and the grains are bad for our body, I used almond meal and coconut flour.  It worked well for this purpose so add this if you like.  You'll have to toast them on the side in a clean skillet before adding to the finished dish.