cherries & pearsOur biggest pallet of specialty French foods arrived Monday.   We’ve now got French holiday treats galore and other essential products in stock for your holiday cooking needs.

Holiday TreatsHoliday Treat Time:
Advent Calendar with 24 liqueur-filled dark chocolates
Pear-shaped Dark Chocolates filled with Pear Brandy
White and dark chocolate snowmen
Nougat bars from Montelimar
Maxim’s lace crepes
Chocolate truffles

French flourEssential ingredients for holiday cooking:
French whole wheat flour (T-45)
Assorted French honeys
Chestnut products:  Jams & whole cooked chestnuts
Tapenades and spreads
Burgundy snails in cans
Assorted fruit jams
Rougie Foie GrasHenaff and Rougie pâtés, rillettes and foie gras in tins
Rougie duck confit in large cans (4 legs)
Calissons, individual
Mouettes d’Arvor tinned fish from Brittany
Teisserie syrups

Lingot beans in goose fatCassoulet is fantastic this time of year, for dinner parties or family gatherings.  If you’ve never had cassoulet, essentially it’s pork and beans on steroids – ingredients are slowly simmered, then topped with bread crumbs and duck fat, and then baked.  It’s a dish that takes me 4 hours to prepare and it fills the house with mouth-watering aromas.  See the recipe below with notes on the ingredients available at Paris-Madrid Grocery.
NOTE:   If you don’t have 4 hours to prepare this dish, come to Paris-Madrid Grocery for help.  We’ve got a cassoulet shortcut of jarred white beans cooked in goose fat, duck confit, Toulouse and garlic sausages, tomato paste, and duck fat.  You’ll sauté the sliced sausages with 1/2 cup chopped onions and 1 tablespoon tomato paste for 10 minutes while the duck confit warms in a skillet. Remove the duck confit from the pan, pull the meat off the bone, and coarsely chop.  In a clay cazuela or bean cooking pot, mix the white beans, duck confit, and cooked sausages. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, then bread crumbs and 1/2 cup duck fat.  Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

CassouletCassoulet Recipe   Adapted from Christian Constants’ “Everyday French Cooking”
The former chef at Hotel Crillon, Christian Constant’s Parisian restaurant Le Violon d’Ingres was awarded two Michelin stars in 1997, two years after opening.   We discovered his more casual restaurant, Les Cocottes in the 7th ARR. loved the food, and bought this cookbook there.  Search out his restaurants when you’re in Paris!  In the meantime, enjoy this fantastic cassoulet!    Serves 6

As cassoulet is a hearty and upscale version of pork and beans, I freely substitute meats as noted below.  Once the beans are soaked overnight, it will take 4-5 hours to prepare this recipe.  Sharon Baden, Paris Madrid Grocery

8 ounces smoked bacon*
8 ounces pork rind, fatback, or Spanish ham hock*
8 ounces garlic sausage or Spanish Butifarra sausage*
1 onion, studded with 1 clove
2 carrots
1 pound white beans, preferably Tarbais beans, soaked overnight and rinsed*
1 tablespoon olive oil*
1 small shoulder of lamb, boned, excess fat removed (appx 1 ½ lbs), cut into 1-inch cubes, blotted dry
2 tablespoons tomato paste*
Fine sea salt*
Freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces of duck fat*
1 ½ pound fresh pork sausage links (Fabrique Delice Toulouse sausages)*
3 duck legs confit*
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes*
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs

*These ingredients are available at Paris-Madrid Grocery

Tie the bacon, pork rind, garlic sausage, clove-studded onion, and carrots together in a large double layer of cheesecloth and put with the beans in a large, deep heavy-bottom casserole.  Cover with water at least 3 inches above the top of the beans.  Bring to a boil, then turn the high down and simmer until the beans are almost tender about 1 ½ hour.  Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.  Transfer the beans, bacon, pork rind, and garlic sausage to a bowl, discarding the onion and carrots; cover loosely with foil and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large casserole, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the lamb and brown on all sides.  Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste and stir to coat.  Season with salt and pepper, add about ¾ cup water, cover, and cook over medium heat until tender.  In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the duck fat.  Add the sausage links and cook over medium heat until brown on all sides and no longer pink in the center.  Keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.   Gently heat the duck confit in a skillet over medium heat.  Remove the bones, chop the meat into large pieces, and keep warm.

Slice the smoked bacon and garlic sausage and set aside.  In a large casserole, heat 3 tablespoons of duck fat over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced onions, garlic, and pork rind and cook gently over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and golden.  Add the tomatoes, the remaining 1 tablespoon tomato paste, the thyme, and the cooked beans.  Stir in the cooking liquid from the lamb and about ½ cup of the bean cooking liquid, transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and stir in the parsley.

TO SERVE THE CASSOULET:  Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spoon the bean mixture into a large, deep ovenproof casserole.  Add the lamb cubes, bacon, garlic sausage, duck confit, and sausage links and stir to combine.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, drizzle on the remaining duck fat, and cook until the crumbs are nicely browned.  Serve very hot.

Serve with a hearty red Chateauneuf-du-Pape such as Domaine Vieux Telegraphe.