Thursday, April 23, 2009

Underground Chicago

I've been extremely remiss in posting about our pasta night last month, but I found something else extremely interesting that I thought I would post! I was talking to someone last night who's attending an "underground dinner" this weekend and I was totally jealous. I've always wanted to go to these but I've never seemed to make my way onto a list. So, my lunch hour today was consumed with finding these opportunities and getting on all the lists that I possibly could. I found all of the somewhat public ones, apparently the really exclusive ones are by invitation only and you need to know the chef or someone else on the list. I suppose the public ones are a good place to start. Below are links to all of the ones I could find for Chicago, get yourselves on the list and maybe we can enjoy some of these together!

Sunday Dinner:
Bon Soiree:
City Provisions: (their farm dinner field trips sound amazing!)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cassoulet Sunday

A couple of Sundays back I put the duck confit to good use in our cassoulet. I was originally going to use this recipe from Gourmet, but then decided I'd rather try this recipe from Saveur.

Saveur is one of my favorite magazines, but their recipes tend to be a bit complicated. The cassoulet was actually simple to make, but there were a lot of ingredients and it's really a two-day process. I ended up starting the last couple of steps a little late, so everything didn't cook as long as the recipe recommended, but it didn't seem to matter. I had tried making cassoulet about seven years ago (it was one of my first dates with my husband), and it was okay, but it doesn't really compare to this one. The meat and beans were such a wonderful combination. I'm actually in the process of making another today. I'm using smoked ham hocks this time and just plain duck breasts. We'll see how it goes!

I got all of my pork at Paulina Meat Market. It's such a great store and I don't go there often enough. From what I can tell, they have every meat possible, and if they don't have it they're willing to order it.

Here's a neat little
article on cassoulet from Time. Apparently there's even an Académie Universelle du Cassoulet, a group of chefs dedicated to cooking traditional cassoulet across Languedoc and beyond.

Since cassoulet is so hearty, we decided to keep the other dishes pretty simple and light. I also tried to pick things from other food blogs I really enjoy. The
frisee salad with red currants came from the kitchn while the whole lemon tart came from smittenkitchen. We also had the speedy no-knead bread made famous by Mark Bittman in the New York Times. It actually comes from Sullivan Street Bakery and I think is one of the best things I've learned to make. It works every time and seems almost foolproof.

Here are photos of the confit and cassoulet. Unfortunately the photos I took of the group didn't turn out very well at all.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Duck Confit - Cassoulet Prep

After talking to a few people, I decided it was worth it to try and make the duck confit for the cassoulet myself rather than buy it. While it takes few days to make (about 2 days of salting and 3 hours of cooking), it's a pretty straightforward method of cooking. The hardest part was finding the duck legs and enough fat. I managed to get both at Fox & Obel. The butcher I talked to also let me in on a little secret; you can substitute some of the duck fat with canola oil. So when I didn't have quite enough duck fat (I had a half cup from a duck we made a couple of weeks ago then bought 2 more lbs) to cover the legs I had a back up plan.

Confit is a preserving method for meat. Here's a definition posted on Epicurious: "This specialty of Gascony, France, is derived from an ancient method of preserving meat (usually goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat. The cooked meat is then packed into a crock or pot and covered with its cooking fat, which acts as a seal and preservative. Confit can be refrigerated up to 6 months. Confit d'oie and confit de canard are preserved goose and preserved duck, respectively."

I used a recipe from Tom Colicchio:

3 tablespoons salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
6 sprigs thyme
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 duck legs with thighs
4 duck wings, trimmed
About 4 cups duck fat

1. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt in the bottom of a dish or plastic container large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots, and thyme in the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the salt mixture, then sprinkle with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots, and thyme and a little pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

2. Preheat the oven to 225°F. Melt the duck fat in a small saucepan. Brush the salt and seasonings off the duck. Arrange the duck pieces in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or ovenproof saucepan. Pour the melted fat over the duck (the duck pieces should be covered by fat) and place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit slowly at a very slow simmer — just an occasional bubble — until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2-3 hours. Remove the confit from the oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat. (The confit will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.)

The duck fat can be strained, cooled and reused. I'm hoping that I'll have enough to make duck fat fries!