Go French this Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 18, 2010
By Sara Moore
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Rather than the usual turkey dinner, do something a little different this Thanksgiving and surprise your guests with a French dish. Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault of Andaz West Hollywood shares his recipe for Cassoulet, a rich, slow-cooked white bean stew, casserole, one-pot heart-warming dish made with the chef’s secret combination of seasoning and meats (pork and pork sausage, goose and duck), cooked and served in a distinctive deep round earthenware pot with slanting sides.

CASSOULET DU PÉRIGORD
(serves 4)

Cassoulet Ingredients:
1 pound white beans
1 pound pork belly, skin on
4 links raw pork sausage
2 duck confit legs, about 8 ounces each
1 cup duck fat
2 quarts water
2 large onions, one whole and one finely chopped
1 whole carrot
5 whole garlic cloves
1/2 leek stalk, cut lengthwise
1 thyme sprig
1 laurel leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Cassoulet Topping Ingredients:
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 cup country bread crumbs, untoasted

The day before preparation for the beans:
Cover the beans in cold water and let them soak overnight. Use at least one-half gallon of water.

Method:

Pull the skin off of the pork belly, using a knife as you would peel a potato. Rinse the skin in water and set aside. Cut the pork belly into 2-inch cubes. Roll the reserved skin into approximately 4-inch lengths and tie each roll with kitchen string.

In a large saucepan, add 1/2 cup duck fat and heat to a frying temperature. Add the sausages and roast them, turning until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove from pan to rest.

Then roast the duck confit legs in the duck fat on skin-side only until they are golden brown. Remove from pan to rest. Next, saute the pork belly in the duck fat, on every side until golden brown.

Add enough water to the pork belly to cover the meat. Add whole onion, the carrots, garlic cloves, leek, thyme, laurel leaf and the pork skin rolls.

Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the meat is soft. The water should always cover the meat; add more water as necessary.

Drain the white beans.

Drain the pork stock from the saucepan and reserve.

Remove the pork belly and the pork skin rolls from the saucepan and place them with the reserved sausages and duck legs in a large stockpot. Then add the remaining 1/2 cup duck fat, the chopped onion, the drained white beans and the reserved pork stock. Cook very gently at a slow boil for about 3 hours, until the beans are soft and tender. The liquid should always cover the beans; add more water as necessary.

When the beans are cooked, season the mixture with salt and ground pepper, to taste.
Never add salt at the beginning or the beans will become hard.

Remove the pork skin rolls and cut the strings off them. Slice each roll into 1-inch slices and add these slices to the bean and meat mixture. Remove the pork sausages and slice each into four parts and add back into cassoulet.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spoon the cassoulet mixture into individual cast iron ramekins, or if you plan to serve family-style put cassoulet in a large pot. Combine the cassoulet topping ingredients in a small bowl and then sprinkle the mixture atop the cassoulet. Place the ramekins or serving pot in the oven, and heat until crumb mixture is very hot and turns a light golden brown. Serve immediately.

Chef Sebastien’s favorite wine pairing for Cassoulet du Périgord is Clos Fardet Madiran 2007 from Southwestern France.


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