Old Man Winter Eats Fondue and Cassoulet with Friends (and so should you)

I’m a winter kinda guy, always have been.  I appreciate the cold weather immensely and look forward to making hearty comfort food as the mercury drops.  Soups, stews, casseroles, braises – you get the picture. This is my culinary wheelhouse so to speak.

Comfort food, in my humble opinion, is best produced in large batches to encourage sharing with friends, family, random drifters, shut-in neighbors, roommates in your hostel etc. Don’t be shy!  Make a big pot and get to know fellow citizens of the earth.

Like the classic nursery rhyme- "Do not eat cassoulet, made by a French cat wearing a black beret"*

Cassoulet and cheese fondue are two delicious dishes that are particularly well suited to bringing together large swaths of humanity.  Feast adapted recipes for cassoulet and cheese fondue that provide a fantastic starting point, but experimentation is definitely encouraged.  Contrary to the residents of Southwestern France, we can make good cassoulet right here in the U-S of A.

Give it a shot.  Let us know how it goes…or better yet invite us over to check out the results.  I promise we’ll bring wine and be on our best behavior in front of your folks.

Click through to the next page for full cassoulet and cheese fondue recipes. 

FEAST CASSOULET

*prep time: 20 minutes, cooking time: 1.5 hours, serves 2 (*I recommend doubling, tripling or quadrupling depending on how many drifters you want to feed)

Ingredients:
1 duck confit leg
½ lb. French Country Sausage made by Simply Sausage
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. thyme, finely chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
Vegetable demi-glace, to yield 1-cup stock
Salt and black pepper
4 slices high-quality bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (Edwards Surry Farms, Pine St., Nodine’s will all do fine)
1 14oz can cannellini beans

Instructions:
-Preheat oven to 350°F.
-Cook duck confit over medium heat until fat is rendered (liquid) and skin crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan, take meat and skin from bones and chop finely.
-Sear sausage in duck fat until browned on all sides, approximately 8 minutes. Remove from pan, let cool slightly and cut into ¼-inch rounds.
-Sauté onion in fat, 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, sauté 1 minute longer. Remove onion mix from pan.
-Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat, increase heat and brown pan sucs (proteins stuck to pan bottom).
-Pour wine in pan, scrape up sucs, allow to reduce 1 minute.
-Add stock and bring to boil, season to taste with salt and pepper.
-Line inside of deep ovenproof crock(s) with uncooked bacon, like a pie crust.
-Arrange ingredients in alternating layers: ½ cup beans, ½ cup onion mixture, sausage, ½ cup beans, ½ cup onion mixture, duck confit, remaining beans.
-Add enough stock just to reach the top layer of beans but do NOT submerge them. Reserve any unused stock.
-Place in oven and cook for one hour. Check halfway through cooking, if the dish looks dry, you can add additional stock to moisten.
-Remove from oven and serve piping hot with a crusty baguette, some delicious red wine or champagne.

Hot cheese is delicious- even as a cartoon! Look how happy those bread cubes are!

FEAST CHEESE FONDUE

*prep time: 5 minutes, cooking time: 15 minutes, servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 clove garlic, halved
1 1/2 cups Riesling
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 oz. Gruyere, cubed
5 oz. Emmental, cubed
2 oz. Appenzeller, cubed
2 oz. Shelburne cheddar, cubed
1 Tbsp. Kirsch or other brandy
Freshly ground pepper
Baguettes and assorted accompaniments

Instructions:
-Place all ingredients in fondue pot except Kirsh and pepper.
-Cook over very low heat, stirring in a figure-8 pattern until cheeses are just melted and smooth. Season with pepper.
-Add Kirsch and bring to the table to serve.
-Serve with chunks of baguette for dipping.
-Traditional accompaniments include bitter green salad with a mustard-y vinaigrette, charcuterie, chilled Riesling or Gewurztraminer and hot tea.
-According to Swiss lore, if you lose your bread in the pot, you must kiss the person seated to your left at the table. (Position yourself accordingly.)

*I made this nursery rhyme up, but it seems to make a ton of sense.

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