I'm Totally Rushing You In the Fall.

Things are happy. Things are good. Business is good, things feel pretty stable, and, on these crisp nights, I can rock layers (clothing). Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is coming up really fast. Usually I am a pretty major Christmas geek. I love Christmas music, the tree, the decorating, the parties, the excuse to be over dressed and wear sparkly things, the excuse to be over dressed, wearing sparkly thinks while drinking sparkly things.

This year I don’t feel as much like Mother Christmas as I usually do. I don’t foresee having my annual Christmas party, I’m entirely unclear what I’m giving to whom as gifts (and I usually have that on lockdown months before), and I’m not even getting a tree. I have dug the big boxes of Christmas from the garage, so that’s a start.

A lot of this could be because of the timing of the most recent Dinner at Eight. That would have been last Friday. But even though that’s over and done with, I don’t feel like I can concentrate on things. I am decidedly distracted. I’ve barely even written anything this month. But maybe that’s because I have a crush.

I do.

And it (he) has taken quite a bit of my physical and mental space over the past few weeks. He’s coming over for dinner tonight. I haven’t cooked for him yet. I’m nervous. Why am I nervous? I cook for people all the time. I cook for friends, family and even complete strangers. All. The. Time. And yet I’m nervous to cook for Fred tonight. I know I’m going to make my oyster stew. However, I don’t know what will follow. I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure it will be better than fine. I’m sure it will be delicious and fun.

But I’ve still got the swirlies. Ugh.

Anyway, this past Sunday we spent the better part of the day making cassoulet. I’ve wanted to make cassoulet for forevers. It’ one of my very most favorite dishes. Cassoulet night at Lucques is something I look forward to all year (that’s coming up, by the way). Our cassoulet making was a really fun process that began with procuring our Meat(s) at Lindy & Grundy around one o’clock and ended on Fred’s couch, chowing down at about eleven o’clock. And that was with the fast soak on the cannelini beans. We spent a good deal of the down time doing the Sunday crossword and watching In A Lonely Place (best movie, ever). It all worked out really nicely. It was good times and good food, I must admit. And, as you know, I do so love a Process. And a Sunday. And a cassoulet.

So, back to tonight. I’m thinking either scallops or a stuffed pork tenderloin. Something with beets? I welcome your thoughts on the matter. Regardless, I’ll keep you posted on how tonight’s meal turns out. Promise.

Our Sunday Cassoulet
Serves 6-8

1 pound dried cannelini beans
10 Tablespoons duck fat 
16 cloves garlic, smashed
5 shallots, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large ham hock
1 pound lamb neck, cut into 1"cubes
1⁄2 pound pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 confit duck legs (we used chicken legs)
1 pound pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

Soak beans in a large bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight. Heat 2 Tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, shallots, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hock along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Transfer ham hock to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of duck fat in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add lamb and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.

Meanwhile, sear duck legs in 2 Tablespoons of duck fat in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2" slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.

Heat oven to 300˚. Mix beans and pork stew in a large cast iron dutch oven. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat. Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook cassoulet until crust is golden, about 5 minutes.

Printable recipe

One year ago: Linguine with Pancetta Mushroom Cream Sauce
Two years ago: The Flying Pig Truck

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