Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
This is an involved recipe and you can find it here on the Daring Kitchen site. I'm not sure how to describe how I felt about the challenge when it was announced. Apprehensive is probably the best fit. Duck, Duck Fat, Sausages, Pork Belly...what had I gotten myself into?
I have to admit that since I wasn't really excited I kept putting off doing the challenge. Earlier this week it occurred to me that the challenge of cooking outside our comfort zone is exactly what this group is about. Now that it was down to the wire I decided that I needed to just get my butt in gear and find out exactly what I was so worried about.
When we were doing our monthly grocery trip earlier in the month I was unable to find certain ingredients. Since I put off attempting the challenge until the last minute, there was no time to go hunting other stores to find them so emergency substitutions needed to be made. To top it off, while I was trying to get the recipe down so that I could start the process, my computer went all wonky on me. I was now making this from (sketchy) memory, without the correct ingredients, two days before the challenge was do. (And what will my procrastinating self learn from this? Nothing).
In light of everything I changed, I sure hope that this still counts as a completed challenge. For my chicken confit I salted the chicken, sprinkled on an herb mix that I assembled my bread dip, and slow cooked it in the oven at 250°F for only 4 hours (faulty memory got it wrong) but it was so delicious! I could have just eaten the chicken by itself. I couldn't remember what veggies (if any) went into the given recipe so I decided to simply quarter some mushrooms and toss them with some of the used olive oil as well as a tablespoon of lemon juice and roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes. At that time I added a rough chopped onion and let them all continue to roast another 10 minutes. When they were done I added the beans, some leftover homemade Ham and Potato soup (instead of the pork belly, close enough, right?), the sausage and chicken and tossed it all back into the oven to cook together for a while.
After all that nervous apprehension I am thrilled to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the way this turned out. Was it the given recipe? Not even hardly. Looking at the recipe now I wonder how I missed some of the steps. I will probably leave out the sausage next time, they really didn't add much as far as I was concerned. The chicken? Awesome. I will make it again to eat by itself, with the rest of the ingredients, with another sauce/ingredient combo all together, you name it. I'm sold, it was good. Other than the chicken, the part I am most thrilled with were the mushrooms and onion. Oh my goodness, they were incredible. I will be roasting them together like that again to top something, anything. I never realized how much I liked mushrooms before. In light of all that, I can say that I am glad that I completed this challenge, allowing it to stretch me a bit and show me that some things that sound odd can be really quite delightful.