I have to confess I had never had a cassoulet until my trip to Paris. Having scoured the Internet for recommendations I decided to go to a little restaurant with the grand name, Comptoir De La Gastronomie.
This place had me at bon jour. Mind you I write this whilst the first glass of very dry red wine I have had in years is cursing through my veins. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is everything one could want from an authentic French restaurant. Diners are literally squeezed in like sardines and waiters have to negotiate their way in between the small wooden tables like Circue de Soleil performers.
The staff speak very good English and, I think, are used to bloggers like myself coming in to test the great stories on the Internet. Even though I came in for the cassoulet I am tempted by the three course lunch menu which only costs 18 euro. But I'm here for the cassoulet, and yes as ultimate comfort foods go this is the dish.
As I take another sip from my very dry red and the woolly comfort of alcohol overtakes me I raise my eyebrows and the waiter comes running. I ask what is best for dessert and he smilingly recommends another cassoulet. And as the red wine fumes completely take over my senses I order the warm chocolate pudding cake, which has no flour.
And as the SCD community gasps in shock, as you are all aware I have been 100% SCD for a very long time, I take refuge for one single time in the Paleo community, where chocolate is allowed. So my dear SCD'ers either jealousy or concern will be at the forefront of you minds and I am hoping that this is a case of mind over matter, where the pure enjoyment will counteract the faulty chemistry of my body.
Cassoulet a la Comptoir De La Gastronomie
To prepare your duck confit, if you can’t find any at the delicatessen, you will need to start the day before you prepare the Cassoulet.
2 tablespoons duck fat (or ghee if duck fat is too elusive)
1 kg piece boneless pork shoulder, cut into large pieces
200g bacon (or speck), diced into medium chunks
5 carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 medium onions (chopped)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 garlic bulb, the cloves peeled and left whole
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
400g chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
600g (3 cups) haricot beans (soaked overnight)
4 pork sausages (Toulouse is best)
6 duck confit (this is precooked duck available from a delicatessen, otherwise see above for how to prepare your duck for this meal)
½ cup almond meal (SCD substitute for bread crumbs)
Melt the duck fat or ghee in a large casserole over medium heat. Brown pork on both sides then remove from the pan.
Then brown bacon and add the onions, carrots and celery and stir.
Add tomato paste and stir for 1 minute.
Return pork to the casserole with the garlic cloves, herbs, tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, drain beans and place in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 5 cm, then bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are almost tender but still a little firm. Drain and add beans to casserole.
Cover and continue cooking for a further hour.
Place sausages in a frying pan with a little duck fat or ghee and cook over medium heat, turning, for 15 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly, then cut into 1.5 cm pieces and set aside.
In the same pan, warm the duck confit over medium heat, turning for a few minutes or just long enough to soften the meat. Remove duck meat in large chunks, discarding the skin and bones and mix into the casserole with the sausages. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with the almond meal.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Place on the lowest rack of the oven and cook for 1 hour or until almond meal begins to brown.