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February 2010 Archives

Eggs Baked with Breadcrumbs, Scallions & Cream

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 27, 2010 at 11:36am

These are technically shirred eggs, which are eggs baked whole out of the shell.  But since I don’t like the word shirred, I’m just calling these baked eggs.  This recipe is based on another beauty from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book (I’ve said before that it’s a lovely book; I still mean it).  I riffed on the original and added the toasted breadcrumbs and scallions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the easiest eggs this side of pie – oh wait, I already used that one.  Well then, they’re as easy as a slap (that’s Czech, I looked it up online, it’s my new favorite “easy as” phrase, so expect to see it again).  As Marion says, “Shirred eggs are a convenient dish to serve when you have invited a number of people over for breakfast; you might try cooking a number this way using buttered muffin tins instead of ramekins.”  Fabulous advice, especially since they’re so pretty.

And creamy and good, so you will definitely want two for each person (the four pictured were gone in four minutes; I’ve clearly recovered from last night’s over-indulgence and in fact found these rather restorative).  You could serve them with hot, buttered toast, but I think they don’t need it, given the buttered breadcrumbs at the bottom of the dish.  Up to you, of course.  John wished for crispy bacon as a side and that did make sense to me.  Next time. (Tomorrow).

Eggs Baked with Breadcrumbs, Cream & Scallions

Adapted from a basic recipe by Marion Cunningham from The Breakfast Book

Makes 4 eggs (honestly, serves 2)

1 Tbsp. butter

1 c. fresh breadcrumbs (from approximately 2 slices of bread)

2 scallions, minced

salt and pepper

4 medium eggs

8 tsp. whipping cream (2 tsp. for each egg)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of salt and stir around until nicely toasted and browned, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the minced scallions.

Put four small ramekins on a baking sheet.  Divide the breadcrumb/scallion mixture among the ramekins.  Crack one egg into each ramekin, then drizzle 2 tsp. of cream over each egg.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12 minutes (or up to 15 minutes, which is how long it took for our eggs to no longer have any clear whites, yet still-runny yolks; but start peeking at 12 minutes – once they’re over-cooked, there’s obviously no going back…).

If you’re making toast and/or bacon, do it while the eggs bake, because you’ll want to eat them immediately (they continue to cook in the hot ramekin).

Part I: Braised Crispy Pork with Caramelized Onion Gravy

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:15am

It might be warming up outside, but I’m still in comfort-food mode, all the way.  Apparently so are our friends Rishia & Andrew Zimmern, because when we decided to have dinner together last night, Andrew’s mind was on braised pork with gravy and an endive gratin (more on the gratin later).  Thank goodness, since as everyone knows, Friends that Braise Together Stay Together, and we don’t get to see the Zimmern family as often as we’d like these busy days.

Plus, since I’ve braised beef and lamb aplenty this season, a turn with succulent pork (shoulder) sounded ridiculously good, especially a falling-off-the-bone, crispy-at-the-edges version, smothered in caramelized onion gravy.  Hey, if you’re going there, might as well go there, right? That sun feels warm, but it’s still February.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Minnesota.

In case you forgot.

(I just poured the glass of wine for the photo…?)

I do have to admit that the pork and gratin, combined with the beautiful tomato-feta salad, and deadly, deadly molten chocolate cakes (more on the molten cakes later) that Andrew whipped up, put me a bit over the top.  It could be that I talk a good game but in the end, I can’t really eat pork and butter and cream and chocolate all in the same meal without hurting myself a little bit.

Or maybe I just couldn’t yesterday.  I’ll certainly try again another day and let you know.

Braised Crispy Pork with Caramelized Onion Gravy

Serves 6

4 lb. pork shoulder roast

coarse salt

1 Tbsp. peanut or safflower oil (or any high-heat oil)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried sage

1 bay leaf

2 c. dry white wine

1 c. chicken broth

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Pat pork roast dry with paper towels, then sprinkle all sides with coarse salt.  Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add oil and when it’s hot, add the pork shoulder.  Brown the pork thoroughly on all sides.  Using tongs, remove the pork to a plate and set it aside.  Drain all but 1 Tbsp. of fat from the pan, return the pan to the heat, and add the onions.  Sprinkle the onions lightly with a little salt, stir them around to coat them with oil, then turn the heat to low and saute slowly, until the onions soften and then gradually become golden brown, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes.  Stir the thyme, sage, and bay leaf into the onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the white wine and chicken broth, then nestle the pork back into the pan.  Cover tightly and bring to a simmer, then transfer the pan to the oven.  Braise in the oven for 3 hours, or until pork is very tender, even falling off the bone.

To finish, remove the pork to a cutting board.  Turn the oven up to 450 degrees F.  Slice the pork into 1-inch thick pieces, discarding extra fat as you go.  Lay the pieces out on a baking sheet and drizzle a bit of the pan juices over the slices.  Place the pan in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until pork is sizzling and browning on the bottom and at the edges.  While the pork roasts, skim any fat off of the pan juices, then taste and correct seasoning.  Serve pork with sauce.

Spicy Potato Tortillas

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:30am

It’s now Lent, so here’s a meatless lunch or dinner tortilla to make your tastebuds sing.  Golden, spicy potatoes atop a chewy corn tortilla, cooled down with creamy avocado and a drizzle of sour cream, lalalaaaaaa! These are a snap to make, and snappy to boot, not to mention pleasantly filling without being heavy.

To make the corn tortilla chewy (somewhere between soft and crunchy), I heat a fresh tortilla with a spritz of nonstick spray (or light coat of oil in the pan or rubbed onto the tortilla) in a hot pan until starting to brown a bit, but not outright fry.  The chewiness is a nice contrast with – and delivery vehicle for – the crisp-soft potatoes.

Life, language, tortillas…I like them all spicy, so when the potatoes start to brown up, I sprinkle them with adobo chili powder and cumin, and toss in a minced clove of garlic and a roughly chopped jalapeno.  Diced raw onion to finish adds another layer of crunch and flavor.  But feel free to make this your own – olives, cheddar, bell peppers, all good.  Curse loudly (the language part) when you take a bite because they’re that good.

(Looks decent, huh?  Not perfect, I know, but still – a HUGE thank you to Cory Shubert for endlessly helping me learn to take better pictures.  It’s a process, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.  Dude, you rock!)

Spicy Potato Tortillas

Makes 2 tortillas

2 small russet potatoes, peeled, diced small

2 Tbsp. oil

ancho chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small jalapeno, minced

2 6-inch fresh corn tortillas, spritzed lightly on both sides with nonstick spray

Garnishes:

diced red onion

avocado slices

sour cream (thinned with a little cream, nice for drizzling)

queso fresco or feta cheese

Heat oil over medium heat in saute pan.  Stir in potatoes and give them a little sprinkle of salt.  Cover the potatoes, reduce heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes to soften the potatoes.  Remove cover, turn heat back up to medium, and stir potatoes around a few times until they’re tender and nicely browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in garlic, jalapenos, and a sprinkle of chili powder and cumin to taste.  Cook for 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then scrape potatoes into a small bowl.  Return the pan to heat and add one corn tortilla.  Cook the tortilla for a few minutes on each side, until brown spots appear.  Transfer tortilla to a serving plate, repeat with the other tortilla.  Top tortillas with potatoes, finish with garnishes, and serve immediately.

Check These Out

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:05am

More food blogs I’m reading this week, so much goodness out there:

Michael Ruhlman - subtitled “Translating the Chef’s Craft for the Everyday Kitchen.” A prolific and well-known writer, Michael’s blog is beautiful and practical, good combination (his wife Donna is a professional photographer – the pics are gorgeous).  Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Fork, Knife, and Spoon – written by Katie Ng Sommers – she’s local, yay! – who is among many things a professional photographer.  So yep, her blog is lovely to look at, as well as fresh and fun to read.  Follow her Foodography photo feature on the City Pages Hot Dish blog.  Also check out her food photos on her Les Petites Images photo blog, as well as on the Simple Good and Tasty blog (more about that, below).  She’s busy!  Follow her on Twitter.

Simple Good and Tasty – what a local resource, SGT “exists to promote local, sustainable, and organic foods and the people who produce them.”  A team effort, SGT is a comprehensive blog, event directory, event host, and a directory of vendors who serve or source local ingredients. They just celebrated their one-year birthday with a dinner at Grand Cafe – Happy Birthday!  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Heavy Table – yet another local gem, Heavy Table is an online “Twin Cities-based magazine passionately telling the stories of food and drink – from roots to table – in the Upper Midwest.”  They cover it all, man – restaurants, home cooking/recipes, food and wine events, farm-to-table, local personalities, food news, an events calendar, on and on.  HT just celebrated their first year as well, so another Happy Birthday is in order.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

That should do for this week – happy reading!

Classic Lasagna

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 20, 2010 at 1:36pm

I made a pan of lasagna yesterday to take to a recovering friend.  She can’t tolerate garlic for now, so I of course left it out.  I left out the sausage as well, using ground pork in the sauce instead, adding a little extra ground fennel seed and dried oregano, as well as a bit more dried chili, to add back the kick the garlic and sausage would usually contribute. It either worked like a charm, or garlic and seasoning don’t matter all that much when you layer the sauce in with a couple of pounds of whole-milk ricotta and provolone cheese, because the dish tasted exactly as its supposed to – rich, cheesy, chewy, meaty.  As a cook, I’d insist it’s all in the seasoning; as an eater, I know it’s mostly about the crusty, molten cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although one note on the sauce, and I do believe this matters (almost) as much as the cheese.  After years of experimenting with lasagna, I’ve determined that to achieve the real-deal, Italian-American classic, the sauce must be truly long-cooked – deep, thick, with very concentrated tomato.  I’ve skimped on this step in the past and been disappointed with something a little thin tasting.

Actually, two notes on the sauce, the second being leave it a bit under-salted.  The cheeses contribute quite a bit of saltiness to the completed dish, especially the Parmesan.  I’ve made the mistake of seasoning a sauce to taste as is, forgetting about how much more saltiness was coming.  Add bites of salty sausage and the whole can overhwhelm.

While I’m making notes, here’s another, this time about the pasta.  Like a lasagna-making Goldilocks, I’ve tried boiling the noodles (leave the dish too soft and watery), as well as the no-cook variety (leave the dish too dry), so I now soak the noodles in hot tap water (yep, just right).

And another note, this about the cheese.  I’ve found that I don’t much like low-fat ricotta cheese, especially compared to traditional whole-milk ricotta, which is a completely different experience – smooth and creamy and not gritty at all (I buy it at Whole Foods).  I’d rather have a smaller piece of real-ricotta lasagna than a large piece of the low-fat version, but that’s just me.  Use what you like, of course.  One ingredient you shouldn’t skip or substitue is freshly ground nutmeg (into the ricotta cheese) – the flavor is incomparable.  If you don’t cook with whole nutmeg, lucky you, because you are about to discover an easy flavor explosion.  Whole seeds are often available in grocery store spice racks, next to ground nutmeg.  You just grind a bit at a time with a cheese grater/plane, nothing to it.  And one more note (last one!) on my cheese preferences – I use provolone cheese instead of mozzarella.  To me, provolone’s more assertive flavor stands up nicely to all that tomato and meat and seasoning.  But that’s just my opinion too, and of course mozzarella cheese is completely delicious in lasagna.

I think that about covers it.  Invite a dozen people over – because that’s how many this dish feeds, if not more  – or make a batch and freeze in individual pieces (that’s what we do, it reheats beautifully on hungry, late evenings).  Recipe here.

Ginger-Fried Rice

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 15, 2010 at 10:49am

I hated eggs when I was a kid – absolutely, truly loathed them.

Boy have things changed.  The changeover was so gradual, it was invisible to me.  A little bite of quiche (wow!), a taste of deviled eggs (yum!), tiny bits of yolk on an over-medium egg (ooh!), and I was slowly wooed.  Learning to cook eggs myself took the scare factor out of the yolks (good lesson if you, like I, have a child who hates eggs).  Eventually, over many years, I’ve come to adore eggs, to crave them in fact, in iterations I could never have imagined eating, like my version of huevos rancheros, basically an over-easy egg atop a crispy corn tortilla with enchilada sauce.  Beyond good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this Jean-George Vongerichten recipe, which caught my eye a couple of weeks back.  Mark Bittman wrote about it in the NYTimes, and did a nifty little accompanying video, and when I saw both I knew I would love this deceptively simple fried rice.  Topped with an egg, and garnished with crispy bits of ginger and garlic, as well as a drizzle each of soy sauce and sesame oil, it has it all – comfort, salty-crunch, and umami all over the place (soy sauce, sesame oil, crispy-at-the-edges egg).  It makes beautiful use of leftover rice, but is so addictively good, it’s well worth making a fresh pot (let the rice cool uncovered and dry out a bit).

Glance at the recipe and you’ll realize it’s easy to adjust for just one or two servings (vs. four).  You could probably even use leftover already-fried rice (although the simple leek-rice combination is lovely, make sure to try it) – the key is the garnish of crispy ginger and garlic (above), as well as the drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil.  I plan to deliciously riff on this theme for years to come.  Recipe here.

The Easiest Biscuits This Side of Pie

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 12, 2010 at 10:05am

I’m serious – I’ve made buttermilk biscuits a few times and while they’re not difficult, they require…buttermilk…which I don’t consistently have in my fridge.  They also require cutting cold butter into flour, which again is not difficult, but is just fussy enough to prevent me from whipping them up on some random Sunday morning.  Which is probably a good thing, given that biscuits are neither particularly nutritious nor light.  But whatever, I’m not going to make them every day, or even every week, and despite hailing from the not-South, I love biscuits, oh my goodness do I love them.  Forget honey and jam, I don’t need them sweet (although they’re lovely that way), I crave them with eggs or sausage or bacon, oh yeah.  Rib-stickin’, with hot black coffee, ready to work on the ranch.  Or to grab my camera, take a few pictures, sit down, and write about it all.

Anyhow, about the biscuits.  If you’re thinking about what to make your honey(s) on Valentine’s Day, which conveniently falls on a Sunday this year, might I suggest cream biscuits for a lazy brunch?  (Actually, might I suggest the book I got the recipe from – Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, full of the most wonderful, delicious, breakfast recipes you can imagine, it would make a very romantic gift, rarrr…)  As Marion says: “These biscuits are superior, and no student ever failed to make good ones in James Beard’s cooking classes.  They are better than most baking powder biscuits, and they are so ridiculously simple, you don’t have to be awake to make them.  They should be in your permanent recipe file.”

So there.  I can add that they are indeed that easy, and that delicious.  I would (and did) top them with softly scrambled eggs, a shower of minced scallions, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.  Happy Valentine’s Day to whomever you make these for!  Love, Stephanie (Recipe here.)

Asian Chicken Soup Bowl

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 11, 2010 at 8:44am

What?  I didn’t know what to call this…sort of had the concept of hot pot in my mind, but since each person builds their own version, it’s more a bowl thing than a pot thing.   Anyhow, whatever it is, it’s delicious, and fun for a crowd.  As I’ve mentioned too many times before, I make rather deconstructed food on Wild Wednesdays to accommodate the varying tastes of the family.  Beef stroganoff, sauce on the side.  Spaghetti with meat sauce, meat on the side.  Chicken Parmigiana, cheese on the side.  I often throw a chicken soup in there, chicken and vegetables on the side.

But last night, since my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce were joining us for dinner, I decided to innovate a bit and add an Asian twist to the soup concept.  I loosely had in mind Japanese udon soup, or a Chinese soup with little meatballs or wontons, so I riffed on that.  I also wanted to create a healthy-meal-in-a-bowl, and something I could prepare ahead, so that we could eat right away and fly out the door to get the kids to religious school.

So here’s what we had: a fragrant, lightly spicy chicken broth, with optional pork meatballs; thinly sliced tofu, chicken, and vegetables (cabbage, scallions, shitake, bell pepper, and snow peas); and thin noodles.  It was delicious, and pretty (photo above doesn’t do it justice since it didn’t include the noodles – the vegetables and meatballs piled on top of the pasta are gorgeous), light-yet-filling…and fun to build and eat.  Bonus: the leftover noodles in broth blow away any version of packaged ramen you’ve never had (photo right, with a squirt of sriracha); I plan to have them for lunch (meatballs and veggies are gone…shucks).  Recipe here.

For dessert (we had guests; I pretty much only make desserts for guests), a chocolate cake with killer chocolate sauce – a pre-Valentine’s Day sweet-for-the-mostly-sweet.

Shrimp Tales

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 10, 2010 at 7:14am

Sometimes – well, actually often – the shrimp I buy ’round these parts aren’t all that great.  Wild-caught, not farmed.  Big, small, shell-on, shelled, pink, grey.  Brined, not brined.  Grilled, sauteed, baked, broiled.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’ve tried every iteration and vendor I can think of.  Meh.  I know, I know, I live in the middle of the country, give it up and eat what’s delicious locally.  And mostly, I do.  But when shrimp are great, they’re divine, dang it – plus they’re light and nutritious and are the one seafood my whole family loves.

I’ve come up with a solution.  Unfortunately, it’s not a tip on a great source of consistently firm, sweet shrimp.  Sorry.  And it definitely takes the healthiness profile down a notch or two – sorry about that too.  But the little buggers turn out deliciously, so here it is…

I fry them.

No batter, not really much breading – just a dusting of seasoned flour, a pass through hot oil, and voila – consistently tasty, lightly crispy shrimp.  What can I say?  Frying gives them back the texture that freezing and cross-country travel take away – a crisp plumpness, a thankfully far cry from the mealiness that other cooking techniques can’t mask.  They’re not as fabulous as the shrimp you’ll find on the coasts, of course, but they’re mighty good for Minnesota, and far less breaded/heavy than what you’ll find in most restaurants.

I sauteed a pan of okra with tomatoes, onions, and bacon to have alongside (pictured above with polenta, which we did not have tonight – but that is some dinner, okra with polenta).  Good together, shrimp and okra, I look forward to having both someday in New Orleans…

Until then, here’s how I do the shrimp: I buy them frozen in 1 lb. bags, since all shrimp that arrive in Minnesota have been frozen – I figure the store can thaw them, or I can thaw them…so I thaw them.  Plus, I’ve discovered that the thawed shrimp at the fish counter taste exactly the same as what I buy frozen.  So, I thaw them either in the refrigerator overnight or in a bowl of lightly salted water for an hour, then rinse and drain them in a colander and spread them out on paper towels for just a minute or so.  I don’t pat them dry, but I don’t want them to be soaking wet either.  While they drain, I put 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper in a large Ziploc bag.  Sometimes I add a little cornmeal (1/2 cup) if I’m in the mood.  I put the damp-not-wet shrimp in the bag, seal the bag, and shake it all around.  The shrimp will be lightly coated in flour.  I leave them in the bag while I heat a couple of cups of peanut or other high-heat (refined) oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, I then remove the shrimp, one at a time, from the bag (I give each shrimp a little shake as I pull it out of the bag to remove excess flour) and fry them, a few at a time, until nicely golden brown, turning once.  I drain the shrimp on paper towels and serve them while they’re hot – on their own, tossed with stir-fried vegetables (I’d skip the corn meal if using Asian flavors), or dipped in cocktail sauce or aioli.  One pound of shrimp will feed 3-4 normal people (or only my husband, who grew up eating the fresh shrimp his grandmother fried on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida – can you imagine how good? – so he has a different sense of what a “serving” of fried shrimp is.  Like fried walleye to Minnesotans – just keep bringing it).  To prepare more than 1 lb. of shrimp, create separate bags of flour and use fresh oil for each pound.

Cassoulet, Parts III & IV

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Feb 7, 2010 at 2:25pm

The big day finally arrived!  We actually got to eat the damn cassoulet, a dish I’ve become very familiar with over the last several days that it’s taken me to prepare it.  Let me say right off the bat – it was well worth the effort.  And for more reasons than the obvious deliciousness – including the excitement of my fabulously foodie guests (Debbie & Stu the Wine Genius Williams and Ana Scofield & Rudy Maxa), the beauty of the completed casserole, and the satisfaction in finally preparing such a classic dish (it’s been on my list for a long while).

So, I left off on Friday having prepared the bean and lamb stews, as well as pulling apart the duck confit and browning the sausages.  Yesterday I made fresh bread crumbs, and roasted the duck skin, first cut into thin strips, to make duck cracklings (pictured above).  Oh my, those cracklings, so rich and decadently crisp, reminiscent of perfectly fried bacon, except…ducky.  Divine.

About an hour before I planned to assemble it all, I heated both the bean and lamb stews to simmering.  I set out my duck pieces, duck cracklings, and sausage.  I pulled out my 50-lb. (at least it seems like it weighs 50 lbs.) Le Creuset 5-quart casserole and muscled it onto the stove top.  I preheated the oven to 375 degrees F.

I put together an aioli platter for a light appetizer – raw mushrooms and radishes, paper thin slices of salami, cornichon pickles, olives, and tiny boiled potatoes. John lit a fire in the fireplace – always lovely, except if the flue is closed (our furnace guy had stopped by a couple of weeks ago when our new furnace didn’t seem to be keeping the house warm; he latched windows and closed the flue, without telling us, yeah).  Soon clouds of black smoke were filling the living room, sending me running for a pitcher of water and John scrambling to open windows and the front door.  We aired the room out the best that we could and soldiered on, a glass of Veuve Cliquot firmly in hand.  (Recipe for aioli here.)

After that drama (see below), I rushed back into the kitchen and got to work building the dish, the cassoulet, my reward for three days of preparation, smoke-choked dining room be damned, and it felt great.  Here’s the deal: I first spooned in a layer of beans, then a layer of lamb, duck, duck cracklings, and sausage.  More beans.  More meat.  I finished with a last layer of beans, a generous topping of fresh breadcrumbs, and several ladles-ful of the lamb and bean stewing liquids.  I then heaved the now 100-lb. pan into the oven and prepared for our guests to arrive.

Debbie & Stu arrived first, walking in the still-standing-open front door, commenting on how lovely it was to be greeted by an open door and the rustic, cassoulet-appropriate smell of a roaring fire.  I love my gracious friends.  Ana & Rudy came next, with the same cheerful take on the smoke, and we settled into the kitchen for champagne and aioli.

While we sipped and chatted, the casserole was transformed into crusty, golden cassoulet.  I opened the oven, admired its beauty, and began smacking the crust with a spoon, pushing it down into the beans – what?  Yep, that’s what you do, then you put it back in the oven and let the crust form again.  And then you admire, smack, and bake it again, and again, until at the very end, after all the chopping and browning and braising and layering and baking and smacking, a most awesomely masochistic dish emerges, to the delighted oohs and ahhs of anyone within 100 yards of the thing, because it is nothing if not impressive.

I served a simple salad as a first course (greens, apple, dried cherries, hazelnuts).  I then lugged the cassoulet onto the table, and spooned crusty, juicy servings into warmed, shallow bowls, and we dug in.  My first impression – rich.  Meaty, garlicky rich.  The soft beans absorb all of the strong, disparate flavors – gamey duck and lamb, spicy sausage, smoky bacon – and throw it back at you mellowed, blended, perfected.  The chewy, smooth, and creamy textures complement one another, brought together by that glorious, golden crust.  We ate more than half of the cassoulet, in the end, a stunning feat.  With what remained, I happily made up packages for my guests to enjoy today.

We even pulled off eating dessert, the cherry almond tart I’d made earlier in the day.  John had luckily for us ordered several pints of Jeni’s Ice Cream, including Salty Caramel, arguably the best ice cream on planet Earth, especially with cherry almond tart.  Alongside, we sipped Boston Bual Madeira – the cherries in the tart beautifully complemented by the cherry flavors in the Madeira.  A great end to a great evening.  (Recipe for cherry almond tart here.)

So there it is.  Cassoulet, baby.  The recipe is here, with the modifications I made as I went along (mostly to clarify where I thought things were confusing).  I followed for the most part a Julia Child recipe from Julia’s Menus for Special Occasions, but I also incorporated ideas from my father-in-law John’s cassoulet recipe (never had his cassoulet, but given how delicious all of his recipes are, I trust that it completely rocks).  All in all, a grand adventure, I highly recommend giving it a try.  If you do, you must let me know how it goes (here, on Facebook, or on Twitter).

Here are the beautiful wines we tasted:

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut

Château Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay 2007

Kitchak Cellars Scherzo Napa Valley Rose 2007 (Stu & Debbie)

Roessler Ridges Ollie & Hazel’s Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 (Rudy & Ana)

Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee 2003 (Stu & Debbie)

Turley Hayne Vineyard Napa Valley Zinfandel 2007

The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Boston Bual Special Reserve

Cherry Almond Tart

First layer of beans (studded with bacon)

Then lamb (studded with onions)

Then duck, cracklings, and sausage

More beans, etc.

Bread crumb topping

Voila!

Debbie, John, and Ana enjoying dinner