Friday, January 14, 2011

January 2011 Daring Cooks' Challenge: Confit and Cassoulet

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman. You can get the full scoop on their challenge and all the related recipes here.

Since I tackled this project on Wednesday night with Friday as the deadline, I made the Garlic Confit and Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet. As I type this out I realize I didn't 100% complete the challenge as I just have been eating the garlic confit on the side (of everything) rather than incorporating it but that is close enough for me. Hopefully our wise hostesses will forgive me for this oversight! This was a great challenge and I'm glad I followed through with completing it.

I see this cassoulet appearing again in my winter dining; it is very hearty and the aroma alone tells you something good is on its way.  I found it more filling than similar chicken and vegetable soups, which the ingredient list and flavor profile was reminiscent of in spite of missing meat. I used canned beans and some aging, ailing whole wheat pitas to make the crumb topping, which while nice won't be essential for my dining pleasure in the future. It seemed like a lot of fuss for a marginal amount of added flavor and texture to me.

As for the Garlic Confit, if you have the patience to peel lots of garlic cloves, or are willing to pay for the pre-peeled variety, and have an hour or so you can make it. To summarize, you poach garlic cloves in oil with some spices, which results in garlic infused oil you can use on its own and smooth, creamy garlic bulbs that are decadent smeared on bread, on their own and, I assume, in other things. This elegant looking blog has a shortcut for peeling cloves, so I might try that if/when I make this again to cut down on the time involved and the sticky fingers. Or I might just stick to roasting garlic since it is less fussy.

Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet
Adapted slighty from Gourmet Magazine, March 2008

3 medium Leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium Carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 Celery Ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
2 Fresh Parsley Sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California Bay Leaf
1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
3 cans Cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups Water
4 cups Coarse Fresh Bread Crumbs from a Baguette (I used whole wheat pitas.)
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Chopped Garlic
1/4 cup Chopped Parsley

1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350 degrees Fahrenheit with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

Garlic Confit Adapted slighty from Saveur, Issue #129
Yields approximately 1 cup

3/4 cup Olive Oil
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt (Note: use half this amount if using table salt)
5 Whole Black Peppercorns
2-3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
32 Garlic Cloves, peeled (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 Dried Bay Leaf

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place ingredients in a 1/2 quart pot fully submerging the garlic in the oil. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap and then close the jar. This can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

If you think the confit looks creepy here wait until you refrigerate it and the oil coagulates. 
Thank goodness it smooths back out quickly at room temperature and tastes better than it looks.


  1. Thanks so much for posting the link to the tip on how to peel garlic cloves easily. I have yet to try the garlic confit, and this motivates me to do so.

    having said that, your veg cassoulet looks delicious! Fantastic job! Thanks for taking part in our cassoulet challenge!

  2. Hey! I used the same website for the garlic peeling tricks! I really liked the garlic confit, too..

  3. Yes, peeling garlic would not be one of my favourite kitchen jobs either. Sounds interesting. But I'm with you, I will likely just continue to roast my garlic. Congrats for completing the challenge.

  4. Lisa - You are welcome! Thank YOU for a great challenge.

    Steph - Did they work or should I stick to roasting the garlic and act like confiting never happened? I do not want to peel that many ever again (that statement is probably a lie).

    Sarah - It is interesting... I'd say for your current kitchen situation this would be easier than roasting if you need similar garlic though. ;) Thank you.

  5. Sarah - it totally worked!! It made it really easy to peel them all, AND they were a little less pungent at that point, so my hands didn't stink for a week :) I didn't do the full recipe for my first attempt - I wasn't sure I'd get through them all before they start to turn. Looking back, I probably could have made a few more.

  6. I just love you garlic confit link and the hint about peeling garlic is a godsend. In Australia you can buy huge bags of pre-peeled garlic very cheaply almost as cheap as the fresh garlic bulbs. The advantage about the garlic confit is the shape of the clove roasted garlic tends to be very soft and needs to be squeezed from the garlic head.

    Your final veggie cassoulet looks superb I just love the topping you did.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  7. Well done on a great result!

    Double well done for providing a useful link for garlic peeling tips! We wanted to make the garlic confit as an extra, but really weren't up for peeling 65 cloves. Now we just might be...

    Stay JOLLY!

  8. Steph - That is such great news! Very exciting.

    Audax - I'm glad I could provide you with something helpful for once! Thank you for the kind words.

    David and Stacy - Thank you! Good luck with all those cloves. I only did half myself.

  9. I think I have an extra one hour this week. I will definitely make garlic confit...and smear it on toast and everything else...delicious! Your vegetarian cassoulet looks yummy :)

  10. Chef D - Careful! It is addictive. :)