Saturday, December 30, 2006

Casoulette Recipe

The recipe is all together now after various trials & tribulations. Hopefully it is clear and easy to follow. Any questions please feel free to contact me.

OK, here goes. I'm doing my casoulette for 15 on Saturday. This post will be in three parts.

Now: Today plus tonight's preparation work.

Tomorrow: I'll put everything together & do the initial cooking.

Saturday: Final cooking & serving.

Today: Linda & I drove down to Castelnaudary to buy our cassole. (as you will see our big green pot won't hold casoulette for 15). The first shop I went into didn't sell cassoles although it looked like they should have. Anyway, they directed me to M. Vigoule's shop which I'd find down the hill on the right side of the square. I couldn't miss it as it was the one with flowers out front. Sure enough there it was; he sells potted plants, animal food, tropical fish, parrots and, yes, cassoles as well as lingots de Tarbias. I chose his largest model of cassole which is very workmanlike but not nearly as beautiful as the one chrisamirault recently got. Here are pictures of my faithful green pot (nearly 20 years old), the new cassole & the two together.

The Green pot!

New cassole!

Pots together!

While I was there I bought a kilo of lingot de Tarbias which he was selling in bulk. He was insistent that I couldn't make a proper casoulette without them. I'm not sure about that, but the price was right.

Before I get too far with this I'd better give you a 'proper' recipe. Here it is:


-1 Large yellow onion
-3-4 stalks of celery
-3-4 medium size carrots

Dry & canned goods
-1-2 tubes of tomato purée
-500- 750g of white (lingot) beans
-1-2 cans (4 cuisse to the can) of comfit de canard

-500-750g fresh Toulouse sausage
-1 large ham hock (jarret) OR 2 smaller lightly salted ham hocks
-4 or more Lamb shanks. If no shanks use bone in Lamb cutlets

-1+ head of garlic
-Thyme to taste
-Herbs de Provence to taste
-10+ crushed juniper berries
-Salt & Pepper

-Duck fat
-Freshly made bread crumbs
-Chopped parsley
-Walnut oil (about 2 tblsp)

Using the smaller quantities of ingredients this recipe will make a large Casoulette filling my big green pot. If, however, you would like to make more then up the quantities as you wish. (The green crock feeds 8 happily) The Casoulette freezes perfectly.

So, when we got home I laid out my meats.

Lamb shanks, a pork hock & about a pound of Toulouse sausage.

Next I skinned the pork hock as below;

I was trying to get as little fat or meat as possible with the skin.

Once the skin was off I cut it into strips & then rough squares. Not too neat as you can see.

Observe the strips both skin & fat side up & the 'squares'. I'll use the three strips in the casoulette & make the remainder into crackling.

Next came the mirapoix preparation as below:

I'm perfectly aware that few, if any, "classic' casoulette recipes call for a mirapoix. I think, however, that adding one in makes a big & positive difference. The vegetable addition seems to lighten things a bit without losing any of the rich meat & bean flavours. I would contend that the mirapoix adds flavour. "chaque une a son gout" or something like that as they say.

Next the beans went in the pot to soak overnight. (I don't always do this. You can achieve the desired softening by bringing the beans to a boil from cold, boiling for 15 minutes & then letting them sit in the water for 2-3 hours.) Anyway.

Potted beans.

Close up of beans. (The camera didn't do a good job on the colour.) These Tarbias look just like Great Northerns to me. So far I can't really tell a taste difference. Somebody needs to do a side by side cook off. I'll do the cooking if somebody wants to come over with the beans.)

Finally, tonight I got out the rest of the ingredients, except for the comfit, and lined them up ready.

You can't see the garlic very well because its some scraps I had. Serves as a good reminder to go to the village store first thing in the morning & buy some more.

The only things I haven't shown are: The comfit, fresh thyme, parsley, the juniper berries and the breadcrumbs.

Here we are parts #2 & #3


1) Start by turning on the heat under the beans. Add the roughly chopped garlic. Also add some salt & pepper, but not much at this stage. Bring them to a boil & let boil for about 5 minutes.
2) at the same time put the cut up pork rind into a pan with water & bring it to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes.

3) In a large frying pan or, better yet, a deep pot start browning the meats in a small amount of fat (duck or goose fat is best, but olive oil will do nicely). Don't crowd the pan! fry until nicely browned a batch at a time.

4) while this is going on start cooking the sausage. First put the sausage in a large frying pan & add water until the sausage is roughly half covered.

In the picture I've turned the inner ring of sausage, but not the outer - yet.
Keep boiling until all the water evaporates turning the sausage over about half way through.
Once the water just goes add some fat, not much, and keep cooking until the sausage skin browns nicely. Turn the sausage over as necessary. ( at the same time you are still browning batches of the pork & lamb - right?)

5) Once all the meats are browned turn down the heat & put all of the mirapoix in the pot. Give it a good stir to coat with the fat & cover the pot. The mirapoix should cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, until the carrots are soft & the onions are translucent.

6) Meanwhile you can be cutting up the sausage into bite sized chunks & getting your comfit ready.

7) While all this was going on you will have added the tomato paste & the herbs de Provence, thyme & juniper berries to the beans. The amount of each is up to your personal taste. I'm fairly heavy handed, but you may prefer a lighter touch.

8) When ready add the cooked mirapoix to the beans. You are now ready for the assembly!

9) Assembly. (I'll try to make the pictures work for this.)

a) Using a slotted spoon add some beans to the cassole or whatever pot you are using.

b) add the pork hock

c) Add more beans & some sausage.

d) Add the lamb shanks and the pork rind.

e) More beans & sausage. Then the comfit.

f) Final layer of beans!

g) Now add liquid from the bean pot to cover everything.

h) Ready for the oven!!!

Put the casoulette into a 375 degree oven (about 165 C) for 2-3 hours. After about 1 1/2 hours pull it out & check the consistency of the beans. They should start to be a bit soft. Press down the top, take a spoonful of juice & check seasoning. Add salt & pepper as needed.
Repeat this procedure about every half hour until the beans are just soft to bite.

Take the casoulette out of the oven, let it cool then put it in the fridge (or anywhere cold, but not freezing) overnight.

Part #3

No much here, but here are the final steps.

1) take the casoulette out of the fridge about 4-5 hours before your planned serving time.
2) make 2-3 cups of bread crumbs. I like to use sour dough French bread, but any will do. I also like to add herbs de Provence & garlic granules to the crumbs, but that's strictly optional.
3) Pre-heat the oven to about 375 (165C).
4) put the casoulette in about 2 hours before the planned serving time.
5) about one hour before serving time spread the bread crumbs over the top of the casoulette fairly evenly & press down slightly. (Note: the casoulette will probably have formed a crust by this time. If so, press this down firmly before spreading the bread crumbs.
6) Watch to make sure that the crumbs are browning nicely. If not a little top heat from the broiler will do the trick, but be careful. Better a light brown crust than a burnt one.

Take the casoulette out & serve. Make sure to dig in as you serve to get a bit of each layer.

We found that our new cassole, filled to the brim as you could see in the pictures, gave us 15 nice portions. - just! There was none left.

Fortunately, we had made a second casoulette in our faithful old green pot since about ten out of the 15 wanted seconds! We have just enough left to freeze for a nice future dinner for the two of us + a bit for Rupert.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Walnut Oil - The real Stuff!

We went over to a local village named Puylagarde this morning to have a look at the Christmas fair which in past years has been very good. The fair was a disappointment, not as many stands as usual. BUT! Outside the entrance A lovely man & his wife (both in their 80's) were making walnut oil the old fashioned way. I went back home for my camera & here are the results.
M. & Mme didn't want their pictures taken so you only get to see the backside of him. Here he is just dismantling his unique press.

Note the large black cast iron pots. One sitting on a pile of sticks he uses for his fire. The walnuts are 'cooked' in these before going to the press.

To start at the beginning. First the walnuts are gathered in October, then thoroughly dried; they are then allowed to rest for a month or so before being shelled. They are now ready to start the oil making process.

First they are ground using a pretty standard meat grinder. The green bucket catches the walnut meat after the first grinding. Here's a picture of the work area.

Next the ground walnut meat is 'cooked' in one of the cast iron pots over the fire pictured below. The cooking goes on for about 30 minutes with nearly constant stirring using a wooden paddle.

The rusty 'lid' is only there to keep the heat in from the fire below. Normally the pot goes straight onto the fire. The chimney is new this year as the old one had given up after 35 years of use.

Next the hot walnut meat is placed in the press.

As you can see this is a strong metal stand which holds a hydraulic car jack in place. Below the jack is a pot which holds several iron blocks which are used to get the spacing right. Below this pot is the rectangular tray; which is about one inch deep, in which the walnuts are placed.

Lots of pressure is applied and you can clearly see the spout with bucket underneath. One good loading of the tray seems to produce about 8 ounces of oil. According Monsieur it takes about one kilo of unshelled walnuts to produce 50 cc of oil.

Finally, the oil is filtered through a fine muslin cloth before bottling.

Here's the final product.

Its very nice to see things done in the old way. I was lucky to be able to take these photographs and to be able to talk to this lovely old couple.

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure the bottle of oil that I bought will be excellent.

And - what a tale I have to tell every time I use it!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something about cooking

It occurred to me that I haven't posted anything recently about cooking, no recipes, no pictures, no nothing. Partly that's because I haven't been doing much cooking of interest & partly because I've been lurking on eGullet and getting a bit turned off by the way the subject's going.
I did do a big push for Thanksgiving, 21 people and a pretty full menu, but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of dished. I was pleased with my turkey stock consume with parmigiana; it was delicate and light, but full of flavour as I'd hoped. The avocado salad with a mild salsa was also a hit; sort of a guacamole without being mashed up. Its hard to get the right peppers here in France, so I used piment de Epelette which worked pretty well. The de constructed turkey a la Julia was perfect & the baked home brined ham was OK, not great. The veggies & stuffing's went down well. My tarte tatin was good, but Linda's trifle was monumental. Devoured is the only word that applies.

Jacques cheeses were nothing short of astounding. Here are a few pictures.

They all came from one affineur near where he lives. And they are all chevres (goat's milk) cheeses.

The variation in flavour is amazing.

We're still working our way through them and eating the cheeses I'd purchased myself before Jacques asked it he could bring a cheese. Talk about understatement!

Gearing up for Christmas now. de-constructed a turkey today & started making stock. We're going to have our Christmas meal with friends so won't be doing too much cooking ourselves.

Boxing Day (the day after Christmas for those of you not English) will be fun. We'll have about 30+ people over for a casino night. No money changes hands, but we play poker, blackjack, roulette & dice. Everyone starts with the same number of chips; lose them all & you have to tell a joke to the whole group to get more. Everyone bring a dish made from Christmas leftovers, a good deal of wine is drunk and a good time is had by all.

Hopefully my favourite eGullet will pick up in the New Year with the reorganization. Lately the France forum has been very Paricentric which gets a bit boring for those of us in the hinterlands. Cooking tends to be dominated by culinary thrill seekers, but there is some good stuff. I enjoy the exchanges on the Cheese thread & some of the food jokes are good. I'll stick with it & hope for better days.

Don't know how much time I'll have over the holidays, but will post when I can and/or when I have something to say.