Monday, November 10, 2008

Cassoulet and traveling trophies

Sunday morning was quite chilly and brisk. 24 degrees, a few flurries in the air, and there was still a relatively strong wind coming out of the north. For my run, I broke out a face mask for the first time this season! Brrr!

I managed a good run in spite of the wind. And I saw a couple of interesting creatures. One was a black phase gray squirrel. He was quite a beautiful animal and was coal black in color. The other was a golden-crowned kinglet, who was obviously one of the last migrating summer songbirds to get the heck out of here for the winter. Otherwise, it is the "usual suspects" that I spoke of in an earlier post. Winter is definitely setting in.

This was an interesting week weather wise, given that it was 75 degrees on Monday, and then 24 for my Sunday run. That is a pretty impressive swing. And because the weather is getting colder, that means you need to take measures to help warm you up. So, let me tell you about my cassoulet from Saturday. It turned out fantastic!

The finished cassoulet with a nicely browned crust



Three kinds of beans were used, mostly Great Northerns, but also some cranberry beans and a few heirloom Christmas lima beans for added texture and color. The aromatics consisted of carrots, celery, onions, leeks, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, herbs de Provence, and bay leaves.

For the meats, I had four varieties of sausage; smoked Farmer's-style sausage (a smoked ring sausage common here in MN), wild rice bratwurst (another MN specialty), a smoked bratwurst with beer and sauerkraut, as well as some boudin noir. A couple of small lamb shanks rounded it off.

The cooking liquid was primarily whiite wine and tomato paste, along with a splash of beef stock to level it off. I baked it in my cast iron Dutch oven at 300 F (covered) for 3 hours. Following that, I cranked the heat up to 400 F, tossed on some dried bread crumbs, and cooked the cassoulet uncovered for about 15 minutes, allowing a browned crust to form.

My cassoulet with lamb shanks and four sausages



Admittedly, this is not the prettiest dish in terms of presentation. But what do you expect from something so rustic? This is peasant food! And what tasty peasant food, at that. Warming, comforting, filling, hearty, delicious; wow, name your favorite positive descriptor. A delightful contrast in textures and flavors with the variety of beans and sausages, and the meat from the lamb shanks was unbelievably tender and moist. Throw in a hunk of baguette to sop things up, and this was a winner. I will be making cassoulet again in the winter months as the snow flies.

Oh, and slices of leftover baguette made for excellent breakfast fodder the following morning; wonderful little medallions of cinnamon French toast! :)

Mmmmmm....cinnamon French toast!



On Sunday night, I went out on the town to meet up with friends. We had our fantasy golf league awards ceremony at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, as is tradition (we've been going to these places since they were still known as "BW3"). I have been in this league with my friends since 1999, and it is such a good time. We try to pick weekly winners on the PGA Tour, and you get their money winnings for that week. The winner is the person with the most cash at the end of the season.

One funny aspect of the league is our trophy. It is a "traveling trophy," so the winner of the league gets to keep it for the year. A tradition has emerged where the winner has to add to the trophy to personalize it in some fashion. Here is what it looks like after last night:

The fantasy golf league traveling trophy



We have joked that one year someone is going to mount this to the hood of a car and the winner will have to drive the trophy home. That might not be out of the question knowing this crew! :)

Until next time,

Jean
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