Sometimes I think if Baby and I had to choose, we would rather just have a big freezer instead of a refrigerator--we freeze everything, from homemade veal and lobster stocks to ready-made pie crusts, venison steaks, sea bass fillets, chicken breasts, ground pork, and pork bones for soup, tomato sauces, legs of duck confit and Polish boczek. So much came in handy when we rooted through our carefully stocked cupboards and freezer, wanting to use as much as we already had on hand to make this ultimately easy and oh-so rewarding cassoulet, richly layered in flavors and textures.
We didn't soak our beans overnight, opting for canned instead, added toward the end, which I think works just fine, as there's enough else going on here. We thawed veal stock, a leg of duck confit, and used a pork bone for flavor instead of a smoked ham hock--boczek subbed for pancetta here and added the vital smokiness we would have otherwise gotten from the ham hock. Two heads of garlic, an onion, cloves, 1 dry cube each of vegetable and bouquet garni stock, and a few cans of white cannellini beans were pulled from the larder, along with a cup of crushed tomatoes from another can (instead of two quartered tomatoes that the recipe suggested). We ended up buying only 2 lbs. boneless cubed lamb shoulder, 1 lb. cooked pork sausage, a carrot and two celery stalks to complete our cassoulet, topped with a homemade stash of bread crumbs, 1/2 cup sprinkled upon the proceedings just before everything goes into a preheated 400 degree oven.
There was an unopened bottle of a dry white French Frederic Mallo riesling in our refrigerator, so we used a cup to deglaze the pan and simmered the lamb with more veal stock (thereby removing the gaminess from the lamb)--the balance of the excellent, heady vino accompanied our hearty dinner.
Although the cassoulet may be served after the few hours it takes in preparation, plan ahead and be patient (despite the great ribbons of aroma undulating about the kitchen). Let it cool down and keep the dish in the refrigerator for a day or two before reheating over a low flame stovetop and serving.
We will eat this for days--and of course freeze whatever is left over.
If I may say so, Happy Anniversary, Evenings With Peter! Thanks to folks for reading!