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.
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.