Highlights from the Casserole Class

Shepherd’s Pie (for a 9 or 10 inch pie dish)

1 TBS butter
½ cup diced carrot
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp dried sage
Salt and pepper

3 cups mashed potatoes

Melt the butter in a non-stick sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add the carrot and onion. Stir and toss the vegetables to coat them with butter. After about 15 minutes when the onions have begun to soften add a cup of water. Raise the heat and cook until the carrots can be easily pierced with a knife. If the water evaporates before the carrots are soft, add a little more. If the water has not evaporated when the carrots are softened, remove the carrots and onions from the sauté pan with a slotted spoon.

Combine the beans and the carrots and onions and season with salt and pepper. Add the dried sage.

Fill the pie dish with the bean and vegetable mixture and cover with a layer of mashed potatoes.

Brush the mashed potatoes with some melted butter and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Make sure that the mashed potatoes are well seasoned.

If you have a pastry bag with a star tip, fill it with the mashed potatoes and pipe the mashed potatoes on top of the beans to create an attractive design and texture.

Cassoulet

Making a cassoulet is a project that requires planning, attention during the cooking and your willingness to invest some time in the project. It’s much more than a recipe.

Basically, cassoulet is a complex and involved version of baked beans or pork and beans. There are many possible combinations of meat that can be included in a cassoulet and you can anticipate your version being yours and different from others.

Here are the possibilities: lamb, pork, sausage, duck, goose; flavored with and enhancemented by such additions as pig’s feet, pig skin, garlic, duck stock, pork stock, carrot, onion, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Smoked meats are not used in making a cassoulet, however, you can change that rule if you choose. It’s your version of cassoulet.

I have made two versions of cassoulet recently. In one I used pork, duck and Toulouse sausage. In the other I used lamb, duck and a pig’s foot. The pig’s foot was removed before the final cooking. In one version I buried a whole head of garlic in the pot. I removed it before the final cooking. In another I used three cloves of finely minced garlic. In one I used duck stock and in the other I used pork stock.

If I make another cassoulet before spring I predict it will be someone different from the previous two. That’s the nature of cassoulet and that offers you the opportunity to create your version.

A starting point for you…

2 leg-thigh portions and 2 breast portions from
1 lb. lamb shoulder (cut in 1 ½ in chunks) See Note
1 pig’s foot or 6 oz of pancetta or pork belly (diced)
1 piece of pig’s skin (about 6 inches square)
1 lb of garlicy sausage like Kielbasa or Toulouse sausage

1 lb of beans (soaked overnight and cooked)

½ cup each of finely diced carrot and onion
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced fine
4-5 cups pork or duck stock
3-4 TBS tomato paste

1 ½ cups bread crumbs

Salt and pepper
Note: The night before assembling the cassoulet, prepare the lamb pieces in the same way that was used for preparing the duck omitting the nutmeg.

Here is a work plan for making a cassoulet. You can shorten the process by one or two days by baking the cassoulet longer in the first and second days.

Day One
Soak the beans overnight
Prepare the duck

Second Day
Cook the beans
Make the confit of duck

Third Day
Assemble and bake the cassoulet, covered,for three hours.

Preparing duck confit…
1 whole duck
1 TBS finely minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
8 swipes on the grater of fresh nutmeg
8 grinds of black pepper
(no salt)

Remove the leg and thigh pieces and the breast portions from the duck just as you would when butchering a chicken. Remove the first two parts of the wing and leave the joint that is attached to the duck breast. Place the pieces of duck skin side down in a dish shallow pan. Distribute the garlic, thyme nutmeg and pepper on the surface of the duck pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the duck pieces and refrigerate overnight.

After preparing the confit, pull all the fat from the carcass including the skin from the neck. Place the fat in a heavy bottom pan and cover the fat with water. Place over medium-high heat and cook to render the fat. The water will evaporate. Do not cook to the point where the pieces of fat become dark. This will darken the fat and give a burned flavor to the fat. Strain and set aside.

Chop the wing bones and the carcass and use these to make duck stock. (See FFM website for making stock.)

Use your fingers to brush the garlic and thyme from the duck pieces. Place the duck pieces, skin side up, in a shallow baking dish that will hold the pieces close together. Place all the rendered duck fat over the pieces. If you do not have enough fat to cover the duck pieces add some lard. The pieces should be completely covered.

Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 1 hour and then remove the breast portions. Continue baking the leg and thigh pieces for an additional 45 minutes. Remove the leg and thigh portions from the pan and save the fat.

When the pieces have cooled remove the skin. If you are not going to assemble the cassoulet at this point, place the duck pieces in a container and pour the fat over them. You can refrigerate the pieces for several days. When ready to use, cut the breast portions into 3 pieces each. Separate the leg from the thigh.

Assembling the cassoulet…

Lay the pig skin, fat side up, on the bottom of the roast pot. If you are using pancetta or belly fat instead of the pig skin, scatter the pieces on the bottom of the pan. If you are using a pig’s foot, place it on the bottom of the pan near the side of the pan. Cover with a layer of beans with one tablespoon of tomato paste spread over them. Sprinkle some of the garlic and carrot and onion with some salt and pepper over the beans. Cover the beans with the pieces of lamb. Sprinkle the lamb with salt, pepper, garlic, carrot and onion. Cover the lamb with beans and repeat with the garlic, tomato paste and carrot and onion. Continue this layering process with the duck and a final layer of beans.

Pour duck stock over the cassoulet. The liquid should nearly cover the beans. Place a lid on the baking pot and cook in a 350 degree oven.

Fourth Day
Remove fat from the top of the cassoulet which has cooled overnight and bake, covered again for two hours

Fifth day
Remove the fat from the top of the cassoulet which has cooled overnight and bake again for three hours. Uncover the pan for the last hour and cover the top with a layer of bread crumbs.

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2 Responses to "Highlights from the Casserole Class"

  1. Hello,
    I loved the shepherd’s pie and am happy to see the recipe posted. Can you please pass on the quantity of beans, I am thinking I would use 1 lb? And just soak them overnight?

    Thank you,
    Anne

    • I would soak and cook them. The other ingredients could overcook if the beans are not done. the amount is really to your preference.

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