Christmas Cassoulet (Day 3)
Directions for Day 3: Like the previous posts, this can be all done as early as Day 2 once the beans have soaked. Breaking up the tasks into a few small assembly bits over several days can make the process seem a little lighter and can be more accommodating to busier schedules. Once the layering of the cassoulet is completed, it can sit for up to several days (which actually allows the flavors to meld together creating a more complex dish) in the refrigerator. You have created The Taste of Christmas Future!
To recap what we have done thus far:
Compile the ingredients to cook with the beans. Prior to cooking, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly. Place a layer of the beans in a large pot. Add the ham hock, carrot, celery, ventrèche or pancetta, onion studded with cloves, and garlic.
Cover the ingredients with the remaining bean and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans just start to get tender, about 90 minutes.
While the beans are cooking, trim the pork shoulder of any excess fat. Cut into approximately a half dozen evenly sized pieces, season with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork and quickly brown on all sides and remove. Do not fully cook the pork, just brown it. In a similar fashion, brown all the sausages and the bacon and remove.
Reserve any fat left in the pan. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain off any excess fat.
Add the wine and continue to cook over medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Remove the onions and leave any liquid. Make confit and stock or use prepared versions.
To the remaining liquid add the tomato paste, demi-glace, and stock, mix well with a whisk making sure the demi-glace is dissolved. Once everything is dissolved in the liquid, remove and set aside.
When the beans are done, drain the beans and discard the onion with the cloves and the bouquet garni. Remove the ventrèche or pancetta and cut into half-inch cubes, discarding and trimming fat and set aside. Remove the ham hock and reserve the meat, again trimming and discarding fat.
Lightly grease the cassole or other large pot, preferably with duck fat. Cut the cooled sausages into thirds. Divide the bean mixture in half. Place half the bean mixture into the pot.
Add the duck confit, sausages, ventrèche or pancetta, pork (including previously reserved ham hock), onions, tomatoes and bacon. Drizzle with any remaining duck fat and then cover with the remaining beans. You can also layer in as many multiples as you like; I prefer to do two layers.
Pour the tomato paste/demi-glace mixture over the top. At this point, the cassoulet may be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Prior to finishing cooking, remove the cassoulet from the refrigerator and allow it to come back up to room temperature.