19 December 2011

Birthday Cassoulet

Last night we celebrated our good friend's birthday with a nice Sunday dinner. He works a lot and despite my best efforts, I rarely get to give him a nice home cooked meal. Since he has great taste in food and has eaten at many of the fine dining restaurants in Portland, I decided some French comfort food was in order.

A few months ago, I made my first cassoulet for our friends as a thank you for transferring saving all of our files from our dead PC to the new iMac. They had had it in Paris and remembered it fondly as one of their best meals while in Europe. Determined to make it as authentically as I could (without making my own duck confit...that's the next challenge), I went to Cook's Illustrated first for a recipe and found this one (subscription required) that came very close without the duck. It calls for French garlic sausage, which I eventually found at Pastaworks. I decided not to be scared off by the price and thank goodness I wasn't. It makes ALL the difference in this rustic yet flavorful dish. I can't even imagine using any other kind of sausage. It wouldn't do it justice. Even in reheating it, the sausage was just as tender and perfect as straight out of the oven. If you decide to make anything even similar, trust me, it's worth seeking out. And by seeking out, I mean, just get it. I have dreams about eating this sausage. I'm not kidding.
First real meal in my new Dutch oven. I also planned in "Mellie time" this time around and managed to serve dinner at a reasonable (American) hour of 7pm.

To go along with our hearty dinner, I opted for just a salad. Paired with simplified version of cassoulet, again on cooksillustrated.com, was a recipe for greens with olive dressing and warmed goat cheese rounds.
Really hard to slice this goat cheese, but luckily it's easy to form back into rounds before pressing the bread crumbs on.
The bitterness of the radicchio and spiciness of the arugula went nicely with bite from cured black olives, but finished very cleanly with the goat cheese. Since there's not a lot of bread crumbs or spices on the goat cheese, it didn't feel overwhelming with the strong flavors coming from our main dish. We opted to open our last (tear) bottle of Gregory Graham Syrah. It went perfectly, but it was hard to part with that last bottle. Sigh...guess we'll just have to order another case...

I bought some simple blood orange sorbet for dessert, but no one could even fathom stuffing even that into our bellies. I felt like it was my birthday!

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