To me, there seems to be two types of French food. There are the refined, sophisticated foods I associate with fine French restaurants. Then there’s the other, more rustic side, and to be honest, that’s the kind of food I prefer. Rustic food is so humble while at the same time being bold and hearty. It’s food friends and family can gather around. Comfort food made for sharing.
The one thing French food is not, however, is fast. This may be why more people don’t attempt it at home. Luckily, the ounce of patience I do have shows up in the kitchen. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy a process if I know that I will have something spectacular in the end. That’s not to say I like standing in the kitchen all day. If I’m faced with a lengthy preparation, I will break it down into manageable tasks that can be accomplished over the course of 2 to 3 days.
Perfect example is cassoulet. This meaty casserole is not something that can be whipped up one evening. It’s got multiple ingredients that need to be cooked separately, then put together in the end. Even if you have the one uncommon ingredient, duck confit, on hand, it would take you a good part of the day to get this casserole on the table in time for dinner. But if you break it down into 2 or 3 days of work, it is easy going. Another advantage is that each stage has a chance to develop in flavor. Over the course of 7 days, I casually worked on this cassoulet, starting with the duck confit. An hour here and there, but probably no more than 4 hours total prep time. Cooking was mostly passive, so that doesn't really count.
Muscovy duck legs cured in kosher salt, cinnamon, clove and a copious amount of garlic. You could make a cassoulet without the duck confit, but I don't think the result would be as good.
Enough jibber jabber! You want the recipe? I used the recipe in the latest issue of Saveur as a guideline. I left out the pancetta and used olive oil instead of the duck fat in a feeble attempt to cut down on the saturated fat. Kate Hill has a recipe and interesting post about her weekend at Camp Cassoulet. David Lebovitz was also there and wrote an entertaining post as well. If you’re interested in a more cultural perspective, here is an entertaining article I found in Time.
This is my submission to Regional Recipes: France. The host this time is Susan of Open mouth, insert fork. If you'd like to submit a post, check out the rules and find out who's hosting by clicking on the RR link. And definitely check out the roundup at her site sometime early next week. There are sure to be wonderful entries and Susan will be announcing the next region!