making lemonade

It’s a little cold for lemonade, so this afternoon I made cassoulet.

And when I say this afternoon, I mean for the last three and a half weeks, I’ve researched recipes. I plotted approaches. I consulted a chef.

I decided to try cassoulet as prepared by Mark Bittman because while Julia Child can do no food wrong, I preferred a version with duck confit.

The duck. I ordered one from Union Market. I wanted a whole duck but frankly I didn’t want to dismember it myself. Red Apron agreed to deconstruct it for me and give me the entire bird (“except feathers and guts,” the butcher clarified) because I needed the carcass for stock.

I special ordered authentic French beans but ended up buying Goya brand Great Northerns when the fancy bag arrived light on the amount I expected to get for $14.99. I also ordered ventrèche (French pancetta, not as smoky as our usual stateside bacon offering) and garlicky sausage. Hey, I didn’t want lack of the right ingredients to mess with my dish.

On Friday, I marinated the duck legs in garlic, shallots and thyme. On Saturday I roasted the carcass (and all parts not leg or breast) and made a delicious stock that filled my house with a lovely scent. It turns out I should have flipped those tasks but hey, a multi-day recipe takes time to master.

Duck confit. Sausage. Lamb shoulder. Beans. Mind you, this is a dish normally prepared with what the French have in their refrigerators. (Someday maybe I will have extra duck confit laying around.) I took some liberties with Bittman’s recipe. For example, I deglazed the lamb and onions with port before adding the confit.

Cassoulet preparation was supposed to be a cooking date, but sometimes things don’t play out as you envision. Holidays come along, toying with emotions and nostalgia. People get back together with exes. I have no hard feelings. But I knew I’d be angry, at him and myself, if I didn’t follow through with our/my cassoulet plans. And with a fantastic array of aromas filling my house, I’m glad that instead of feeling tragic, I’m left empowered by my kitchen prowess. Not that there haven’t been tears, but I acknowledge my disappointment with grace.

And Pinot Noir.

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