I had some serious moral issues with this challenge. I mean…I’m going to be a doctor, which means one day I will be telling you to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise, and QUIT SMOKING! Yea, quit smoking twice for emphasis. In case you’re still smoking and need some help finding motivation, here are some pictures of lung cancer (warning: may be unpleasant).

But yea, one of those is lose weight and while I’m normally not one to shy away from fat (Everything in moderation!…Including moderation itself), given the obesity epidemic in America it feels weird to be writing about a dish that is off the charts for fat content. I mean in the original recipe there aren’t even any vegetables to give it a redeeming nutritional quality!

At the same time, I am a daring chef, and part of that personality trait is that I try everything. So I compromised. I’ve made the cassoulet, but added vegetables, reduced fat and (I think) retained all of the richness cassoulet is known for.  Did I succeed? I don’t know, you be the judge.

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

cassoulet is a rich stew made of white beans and meat (usually sausage and duck confit), slow cooked in a cassole dish. Making a confit, a method preserving food and flavor in fat, was also part of this challenge.

A few things I did to improve the nutrition facts for this recipe (which incidentally made it cheaper as well!):

– I chose to use turkey for the confit because it was FAR cheaper than duck, and also it came in extra lean!

– I decided to fry up my bacon and sausage for the cassoulet ahead of time to remove as much as of the grease as possible, plus then I got to reuse it in my confit for added flavor.

– I pulled the meat from the turkey legs out of the skin and therefore out of the fat from the confit before placing them in the cassoulet

– I added spinach and carrots (yay for vitamins!)

Turkey confit

Ingredients (some of these will be re-used in cassoulet):

4 lean turkey legs
sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
2 lbs bacon
1 lb pork sausage
a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove
Additional spices such as sage or parsley as desired

Day 1: .Rub the turkey legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: Add the thyme, garlic, rosemary and other spices as desired. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Fry your bacon in a pan until it is browned and crispy. So much bacon!

Save all the grease you can and pour it into the dish with turkey legs. Pat the bacon with paper towels and save in tupperware for use in the cassoulet.

Repeat with the sausage. Make sure to add it to a sizzling hot pan so it gets good and browned.

Again save up the grease and add to your turkey legs. Ideally the amount of fat would cover the turkey legs for preservation but as I planned to use them immediately, I did not feel the need to add additional fat to cover them completely.

Place the turkey legs in grease into the oven and bake covered for ~1 hour or until the meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bone.

Let cool and place in fridge for use in cassoulet.

Cassoulet

Ingredients:

2 cans northern white beans
2 lbs fried bacon (see above)
1 onion, diced
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup turkey broth
1 lb pork sausage fried (see above)
1 lb carrots, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
12 oz spinach, washed
4 confit turkey legs
1 tsp sriracha (optional)
Salt and pepper as desired

Day 1: Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Saute the veggies in 1 tbsp oil. Add the carrots and onions to pan. When onions are sweet and transluscent add garlic and spinach. Saute until spinach is completely wilted.

I bet that image makes your heart smile!

Mix the cooked veggies with the beans and the cooked sausage from the day before, add salt and pepper as desired, plus sriracha if you like a little heat.

Take out your cooked bacon and layer ~1/2 of it in the bottom/sides of your cassoulet dish. You can technically use any dish for this but it’s more fun if you use one that looks earthy.

Add ~1/3 bean/sausage/veggie filling.

See if you can stack some more bacon up along the sides as you go.

Now get your confit out of the fridge and do the best to pull the meat out of the skin leaving the fat from the confit behind. Layer 1/2 turkey on top of cassoulet.

Repeat with another 1/2 of filling, the rest of the turkey  and then top with the last half of your filling continuing to layer bacon up the sides as you go.  Top with the turkey broth and additional salt and pepper.

Bake for 1 hour then reduce heat to 250 F and cook for another hour. Remove from heat, let cool. Refridgerate over night.

Day 2: Pre-heat oven to 350. Cook for 1 hour then break crust and turn heat down to 250. Cook for another 15 minutes to an hour or until carrots are tender and cassoulet is screaming hot. You may add  more tureky broth if necessary.

Serve hot. Holy yum!

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