Cassoulet du Languedoc

One of the most fatuous of French country dishes, Cassoulet du Languedoc (kah-soo-lay dolan-gay-dock) takes almost a day

to prepare. It may be prepared in stages and refrigerated for a day or two before finally being assembled and baked.

Cassoulet is ideal for a buffet luncheon, served with a green or mixed salad.

10 6 pints water 2 lb. dried white haricot or

black-eye beans 1 lb. piece unsmoked streaky bacon

or lean salt pork 4 large onions, 2 sliced and chopped

large bouquet garni, consisting of 8 parsley sprigs, thyme sprays and 2 bay leaves

tied together 6 garlic cloves, 3 left whole and crushed 9 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 lb. boned loin of pork 2 lb. boned

shoulder of lamb, cut into 2-inch square pieces 6 tablespoons tomato puree 1 pint dry white wine ½ pints beef stock } teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black

pepper

1 lb. uncooked Spanish, French or Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 oz. dry white breadcrumbs

4 oz. chopped parsley

In a very large saucepan, bring the water to the boil over high heat. Add the beans and boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the beans to soak for 1 hour.

Add the bacon or salt pork, sliced onions, bouquet garni and whole garlic cloves to the beans. Bring the liquid to the boil over high heat. With a slotted spoon, skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Continue boiling and skimming

until the liquid is clear of all scum. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.

Carefully remove the bacon or salt pork and set it aside. Remove and discard the garlic cloves and bouquet garni. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Cassata alia Siciliana is a mouthwatering sponge cake spread with ricotta cheese and candied fruit and covered with

chocolate-coffee icing.

When the bacon or salt pork is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch thick pieces.

Preheat the oven to warm 325 °F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C).

Heat

2 tablespoons of the oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the loin of pork and, turning it carefully, brown the pork on all sides. Remove the meat from the casserole. Pour off the oil and replace it with another

2 tablespoons of oil. Put the meat back in the pot, cover and cook over high heat until the oil is very hot. Place the casserole in the oven and roast for 1.-J-2 hours, basting the pork occasionally.

While the pork is roasting, cook the lamb. In a large frying-pan, heat

3 tablespoons of the oil over moderate heat. Add the lamb, a few pieces at a time, and brown them on all sides. As they brown, put the pieces of lamb to one side on a plate. When they are all browned, add the chopped onions to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are beginning to brown. Add the tomato puree, the wine, stock, crushed garlic cloves, thyme, salt and pepper. Return the lamb

to the frying-pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover the pan and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and with a metal spoon skim off any fat that has accumulated on the surface. Remove the lamb pieces from the pan and set them aside on a plate. Reserve the cooking liquid.

When the pork is cooked, remove it from the casserole and set it aside to cool. Then cut it into 1- to 2-inch pieces.

Add the juices from roasting the pork to the frying-pan in which the lamb was cooked. Stir in the drained beans. If

necessary, add some of the liquid reserved from cooking the beans so that the beans are completely covered. Bring the liquid to simmering point over moderate heat and cook for 5 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and leave it for 10

minutes so that the beans absorb the flavours of the cooking juices. Drain the beans in a colander, reserving the cooking

juices.

Put a layer of the beans in the bottom of the casserole and cover them with alternating layers of pork, lamb and sausage.

Then add another layer of beans and continue until all the ingredients have been added, ending with a layer of beans. Pour

on enough of the reserved cooking juices so that the top layer of beans is almost covered.

Sprinkle the top layer of beans with a layer of breadcrumbs and then a layer of parsley. Add the remaining oil.

Increase the oven temperature to fairly hot 375°F (Gas Mark 5, 190°C).

Bring the liquid in the casserole to simmering point over moderate heat. Then transfer the casserole to the oven and bake

for 25 minutes or until the top starts to become crisp. With the back of a wooden spoon, press the crust back into the liquid. Bake for another 35 minutes, during which time another crust will have formed.

Ten minutes before the cassoulet is ready, warm the remaining cooking juices and half of the liquid reserved from cooking the beans in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour this gravy into a sauce-boat to be served separately with the cassoulet.

Remove the casserole from the oven and serve the cassoulet straight on to warmed plates.

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