Recipe for Cassoulet

October 8, 2009

Serves 8.

A beautiful, well-browned crust is one of the glories of cassoulet, but how often the crust should be broken and pushed down into the cassoulet while it cooks is open to debate. Etienne Rousselot, owner of Hostellerie Etienne, whose recipe is adapted here, recommends breaking the crust often enough to keep the beans moist – at least four times. Others say that it should be broken every hour. We prefer to break the crust only as necessary (see steps 6 and 8). Rousselot defies Castelnaudary tradition by often using duck instead of goose; he finds it more tender. Cassoulet may be cooked for seven hours straight, but we prefer it cooked over two days.

# 4 cups of dried great northern or other small white beans
# 4 fresh ham hocks (about 1 lb. each)
# 3 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
# 5 sprigs thyme
# Salt and freshly ground black pepper
# 1 third lb. fresh pork rind, cubed
# 1 ham bone
# 1 tbsp. duck fat
# 1 lb. unseasoned fresh pork sausage, (about 4 links), cut into 2″ pieces
# 1 large head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 3 quarter cup)
# Confit of 1 quartered duck or 4 whole legs
# 1 quarter tsp. nutmeg

1. Rinse beans thoroughly, pick through and discard stones, then set beans aside.

2. Place ham hocks in a large pot. Add 1 onion, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partiallly covered, for 2 hours. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 15 minutes,then drain ham hocks, discarding onion and thyme. Cut meat from each hock into 2 pieces. Discard bones and set meat aside.

3. Meanwhile, place pork rind, ham bone and 1 onion in a large,heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pork rind is rendered, about 20 minutes. Add beans and enough water to cover by 1 – 2 ” (about 8 cups) and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Adjust salt, if necessary, then set beans aside to cool.

4. Heat duck fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and cook, turning to brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Place garlic, remaining onion and 1/2 cup water in a blender and puree until smooth. Add garlic paste to sausages and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, turning sausages occasionally, for 10 minutes more.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard ham bone and onion from beans (it is okay if some pieces of onion remain). Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half the beans with pork rind to a heavy wide-mouthed 8 serving-size cassole. Assemble cassoulet in layers: place the meat from the ham hocks on top of the beans and cover with sausages and garlic paste. Divide duck into 8 pieces by separating drumsticks from thighs and, if using a whole duck, splitting breasts in half crosswise through the bone. Arrange duck on sausages, then spoon in remaining beans with pork rind. Season with nutmeg and add just enough reseved bean cooking liquid to cover the beans (about 3 cups.) Reserve remaining liquid. Bake, uncovered, until cassoulet comes to a simmer and a crust begins to form, about 1 hour.

6. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and cook for 3 hours, checking every hour or so to make sure cassoulet is barely simmering (a little liquid should be bubbling around edges of cassoulet). if cassoulet appears dry, break crust (browned top layer) by gently pushing it down with the back of a spoon, allowing a new layer of beans to rise to the surface. Add just enought reserved bean cooking liquid (or water) to moisten beans.

7. Remove cassoulet from oven. Allow to cool completely, then cover with a lid or aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

8. Remove cassoulet from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. When cassoulet begins to simmer, break crust and add enough warm water to just cover beans (about 1 cup). Reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake, breaking crust and adding water as needed, for 3 hours. Remove cassoulet from oven and allow to rest for 15 – 20 minutes. Serve cassoulet from the cassole, breaking the crust at the table.

This recipe was first published in “Saveur” in Issue #24 and has been slightly edited.

For serious food lovers, a simple, but authentic, dish of humble origins can surpass the most elaborate and dazzling display of culinary prowess.

Consider the Cassoulet, a peasant dish whose main ingredient is beans; white beans flavored with sausage, pork rind, potted fowl and perfumed with garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme. Its gastronomic appeal has endured throughout the centuries garnering a sort of cult status among the culinary cognoscenti.

According to legend, cassoulet was invented during the Hundred Year War (1377 to 1453) when the fortress town of Castelnaudary in Southwestern France was besieged by the British and the locals were reduced to near starvation. Out of this hunger and desperation, Cassoulet was born from the meager dried beans, sausage and preserved poultry supplies on hand.

Cassoulet was named for the cassole, the primitive earthenware pot in which the cassoulet is cooked. The two are inextricably linked, as its distinctive shape, slanted narrow at the base and wide at its mouth maximizes the beans’ exposure to the oven’s heat, forming the true cassoulet’s signature “crust.” As per tradition, the pot is glazed on the inside and around the lip, but raw on the outside. Rustic and simple, the “vrai” cassole is as sturdy and hearty as the white beans that give cassoulet its soul. When tapped, the true cassoles produce a distinctive sound, like glassware.

For decades, American chefs have trekked to France to smuggle back the rare lingot beans, but the final missing ingredient has been the ‘veritable” cassole. One renowned chef even convinced a potter in Minnesota to recreate a stoneware version, but in the search for authenticity, nothing can replace the clay dug from the Issel earth where the cassoulet was born.

There, along the fabled Route du Cassoulet, in the village of Mas-Saintes Puelles, outside of Castelnaudary, is the artisanal pottery workshop of the Not Brothers – the only place on earth where true cassoles are hand-spun from local clay as they have been for centuries.

Unlike most terra cotta pots, these extra thick cassoles are fired at extremely high temperatures to insure that they are rock hard, built to withstand the high temperatures that cassoulet requires. With age (and use), these cassoles will darken and acquire a rich patina.

Authentic Poterie Not Freres cassoles are now available. They are produced in limited quantities and can be ordered in three sizes from:
Savoir Vivre Utensils, P.O. Box 63685, Philadelphia PA 19147
Phone: 215-218-0152. Fax: 215-218-0153
or on-line at http://www.SavoirVivreUtensils.com

For serving four persons: approx. 10 ½” dia. $66 + Shipping
For serving six persons: approx. 11 ¾” dia. $75 + Shipping
For serving eight persons: approx. 13” dia. $84 + Shipping

(Cassoulet is too much work and too good to only make two portions but it actually gets better when re-heated for a second or even a third day’s meal.)

Looking for a neat and easy way to carve that Christmas or Easter ham? Trying to get paper thin slices of your favorite deli meat? If so, you need a ham or prosciutto holder – also called a ham or prosciutto clamp. One of our new products at Savoir Vivre, a ham holder is essential for presenting and slicing a whole ham. The ham or prosciutto holder is designed to secure the piece of meat in an adjustable brace, and hold it in place for slicing. The prosciutto holder is intended to be used with a ham or prosciutto slicing knife, which has a long, narrow, and very sharp blade that is perfect for cutting thin, precise slices of meat.

Without the proper culinary tools, slicing ham and prosciutto can be difficult, messy and aggravating! Savoir Vivre sells all of the culinary utensils and serving tools needed to properly enjoy the pleasures of gastronomy. Our prosciutto holders are being shipped now and are scheduled to arrive late-February to mid-March, so order yours today!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JANUARY 28, 2009

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – Restaurant and at-home chefs on the lookout for distinct culinary tools to lend sophistication to their tables can count on Savoir Vivre to deliver. Proving this yet again, the internet-based purveyor of unusual culinary tools and utensils has added three new and highly unusual items to its extensive line.

“Our entire product line is designed to help professional chefs, caterers and at-home cooks set their tables with distinction and sophistication,” said Carolann Atene, owner of Savoir Vivre. “The truth is that many of today’s place settings lack the beauty and refinement that was once so desired. It is our aim to assist our clients in regaining the elegance of the past in their own table settings.”

Savoir Vivre’s mission, in short, is to make hard-to-find, unusual and elegant culinary tools and utensils available to gourmets who want to create a unique dining experience, Atene said.

“We are thrilled to offer three new items that fit up to our high standards in regard to uniqueness and sophistication,” she said. “They work well with our present product line and will help our customers add a high degree of elegance to their tables.”

The first addition to Savoir Vivre’s product line is a manche-à-gigot, which is more commonly known as a leg of lamb holder. A classic French tool, the manche-à-gigot is meant to secure a shank in place for serving and carving.

“The manche-à-gigot is most certainly not a common tool, but it can serve a serious gourmet well,” Atene said. “Our manche- à -gigot, exquisitely crafted in heavy silverplate, lends sophistication to the carving process and helps chefs maintain decorum as they serve.”

The second addition to the product line is the very hard to find manche- à -cotelette. Also finely-crafted in heavy silverplate and similar in purpose to the manche-à-gigot, this tool is designed to secure smaller birds for carving. It is ideal for use with Cornish game hens, pigeons and quail.

“We have been searching high and low for the manche- à -cotelette for a very long time,” said Atene. “It is a true delight to be able to offer this high-quality, rare culinary item to our clients.”

The last of the latest additions to the product line is a prosciutto holder, also known as a ham holder or ham clamp. This unusual device is used to secure the whole ham in an adjustable brace while the thinnest pieces of meat are sliced. This distinct culinary tool is a treasure on its own, but is even more useful when purchased in conjunction with our prosciutto (ham-slicing) knife, Atene said.

To find out more about Savoir Vivre or its new products, visit www.savoirvivreutensils.com. The company routinely adds new culinary tools to its extensive line of products.

About Savoir Vivre
Founded in 1993, Savoir Vivre is dedicated to helping professional and at-home chefs find the tools they need to take their presentations to the next level. The company, based in Philadelphia, seeks out and imports fine culinary products from all over the world for distribution directly to its customers in the United States.

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Savoir Vivre is pleased to introduce our newly acquired and highly anticipated new products – the manche-a-gigot and manche-a-cotelette. Each of these items is silver-plated, truly unique, and makes a great gift for those looking to properly enjoy the pleasures of gastronomy!

A manche-a-gigot, also known as a leg-of-lamb holder, is a classic French culinary tool that is used when slicing and carving lamb. The manche-a-gigot is attached to the shank and then tightened to provide a secure grip on the bone. Though not exactly a common tool, the manche-a-gigot is a great tool for the serious gourmet! Visit our site to learn more, or to purchase our manche-a-gigot.

In addition to the leg-of-lamb holder, we are also proud to offer a manche-a-cotelette. Truly a unique and hard to acquire culinary item, we have been searching for this manche-a-cotelette for quite some time! Similar in style and function to the manche-a-gigot, a manche-a-cotelette is designed to secure small birds – such as quail, pigeons and Cornish hens – for carving.

For more culinary tools, be sure to visit SavoirVivreUtensils.com often, as we are always adding to our selection.

So maybe marrow bones weren’t what Henry David Thoreau had in mind, but if you’ve never eaten the marrow from a beef, lamb, pork, or veal bone, we urge you to try! Throughout history, bone marrow has been revered in many countries as a delicacy due to its rich, meaty, and fatty flavor. Especially in European countries, marrow bones were traditionally served roasted, with a long, narrow spoons to scoop out the marrow. Nowadays, bone marrow is becoming increasingly popular in America as a delicious and rich, yet low-cost food treat. Although the bones often end up going right to the dogs (literally!), marrow is being enjoyed more and more – often served on bread or toast, spread over steak, or used for stock or flavoring soups. Osso buco, the famous Italian dish, and pot-au-feu, a French boiled beef dish, also get their rich flavors from the marrow hidden inside.

Whenever marrow is served inside of the bone – like in these dishes – a marrow spoon is almost essential. Long, narrow, and usually silver-plated, these marrow spoons fit easily into the hole of the bone and allow you to scoop out the good stuff inside. This makes eating neater, and prevents diners from having to pick up their bones and suck the marrow out – although Thoreau would be proud! At Savoir Vivre we sell these marrow spoons, which make excellent gifts for chefs, food enthusiasts, and anyone looking to enjoy their food in style.

Gastronomy Rules

November 21, 2008

From professional chefs to at-home cooks, to lovers of fine food around the world, welcome to our blog! Our name is Savoir Vivre and our tiny corner in the world of gastronomy is made up of culinary utensils.
We get lots of queries from people who are looking for particular culinary tools and just can’t find them.  We understand.  We have the same problems ourselves trying to locate manufacturers of these items.  Many of the companies we have purchased from in the past have closed.  Often, we have to have certain items crafted ourselves.  In some situations, the dies exist for specific utensils, but the foundry isn’t producing them and it’s up to us to commission the foundry to manufacture a quantity.  This is the case with our silver plated marrow spooons  and sauce spoons.  (We now have quantities of both in stock and re-order well in advance so we always have stock as it takes the foundry four to five months to produce an order for us.)