Monday, 10 August 2009
Launching the Cassoulet Project: Duck!
I want to make cassoulet before winter is out. And so last time I was in Woollies, I looked for the dried beans. Nope. Not there. No haricots, no kidney beans, no cannellinis, no chickpeas, except in tinned form. They did have some dried split peas and lentils, for soups, but no other pulses. Luckily my local IGA was much more useful, so I didn't have to drive off to the Indian grocery.
I have a duck which needs using up. I bought it frozen, thinking of cooking it last Xmas, but I never got round to it. I intend to use half of that, and some very tasty Toulouse sausage from the "Bangers" stall at the market. The other half was Sunday dinner - see recipe below.
Now possibly some purists are thinking "She's not really going to make proper cassoulet, is she?" and they are dead right. I have been consulting the Julia Child and Stephanie Alexander recipes, and the authentic cassoulet is a major production, involving many days, many steps, and enough food to feed a small army. I'm making something much simpler, but still keeping the basic idea. The epicurious recipe is closer to what I have in mind.
To start with, I am not going to confit two duck legs. To make a confit, you cook the meat very slowly in fat. And this preserved it for the winter, in a pre-refrigeration era. Now I simply don't have that much duck fat to go around and I'm not going to buy it. Nor am I going to buy one of those tins of goose fat from the Essential Ingredient. And I am not going to use a full kilo of haricots, a whole leg of lamb and a pork hock.
What I am going to do is cure the duck legs, and make a proper duck stock from the carcass. I got the duck out to defrost on Saturday, and I have used my expert chicken jointing skills (as learned from Christophe last month) to split off breasts for dinner, marylands to cure, and a carcass for stock.
I have soaked 375g of haricot beans. The next step will be to finish cooking them in stock. Meanwhile, we still needed to eat. I just happened to have a couple of duck breasts - a Sunday duck dinner with cherry sauce and smashed potatoes and something green sounded like an excellent plan.
Recipe 1: Roast Duck Breast with Cheat's Cherry Sauce
2 duck breasts
1 teaspoon olive oil
75g "Ham Jam"
1 tablespoon brandy
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Slash the duck breast skins, and pan fry in the olive oil until golden.
Transfer to a baking dish
Bake for 7 minutes; remove and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
While duck is resting, mix the cherry jam with the orange juice and brandy. Heat to bubbling, and stir well.
Notes: The sauce can be heated in a microwave, or a small saucepan. You don't need much oil - duck is fatty. Save the fat, it is good. Brush it over some potatoes. And what, you may be asking, is Ham Jam? This is Ham Jam. It's a savoury cherry jam, and contains no ham whatsoever. It is, however, good with ham. Use cherry jam and add some vinegar, cinnamon and cloves if you don't have it.
The duck breast technique, and the idea for the cheating sauce came from Anthony Worral Thompson at the BBC food site. Orange from P&R's backyard tree.
Recipe 2: Ducky Smashed Red Potatoes
Small red potatoes
Pink Murray River salt
Preheat oven to 220C
Parboil potatoes until barely done, about 15 minutes.
Grease a baking tray with duck fat
Put the potatoes on the tray, and squash each one down with a potato masher.
Brush with melted duck fat and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden.
Notes: The smashed potatoes are, of course, a variant on Jill Dupleix' recipe. I'm not very experienced with these, but I find that it's important to whack the potatoes briskly with the masher rather than gently squish them. They're a little hard at that stage.