Christmas Menu

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Cassoulet - serving suggestion

I don't remember how we got it in our heads, but Erica and I decided that a cassoulet would be the perfect dish to make for our first Christmas together in Chicago. When I'm making something rustic, I hate to trust just one source (recipes like that are made to be adapted) so I looked at both the Les Halles and How to Cook Everything recipes, but ended up going (mostly) with a recipe from the website of the Amateur Gourmet.

I'm a big fan of duck and so I was really excited to try making duck confit as step one of the recipe. Top Chef Chicago had lulled me into believing that I could walk into any Whole Foods and have a great selection of duck. Maybe so if I had gone to the same one on Halsted that the contestants were always going to, but we went to the one up in Evanston that used to be a Wild Oats (in the middle of Tuesday's snowstorm, so I was not inclined to dash about town searching for ingredients). The only duck they had was a whole, frozen Muscovy duck that was going to set us back $90. We picked up some chicken legs instead. And their selection of sausage was also pretty slim, so I picked up some Dominick's brand Italian sausage on Christmas Eve.

The cassoulet was in the oven about an hour longer than I thought it would be, but since it was just the two of us, there was no one waiting on the dinner and we just had some toast and jam to tide us over. And I left it under the broiler (to brown the bread crumbs) just a hair long and burned the very top layer of bread crumbs and had to scrape it off. But otherwise it was perfect. The three meats (the chicken, sausage, and bacon) infused the beans with so much flavor it was ridiculous.

I also made a chocolate hazelnut tart (from the Les Halles cookbook) and it didn't firm up quite as much as I thought it would, but even melty chocolate and hazelnuts is still chocolate and hazelnuts. And it went especially well with Intelligentsia espresso (I finally got the stovetop espresso maker working right-- thanks Becky and Andy!).

When it came time for some dinner, we both thought that that leftover cassoulet might be a little rich for a second meal in the same day. Tuesday night we had gone out to Laschet's Inn for German food with Kate and Dan. With the memory of that still in our heads, some spaetzle and gravy seemed like the perfect sort of capper to the day. We had some Chachere's instant gravy in the cabinet and spaetzle can't be that hard to make, can it? Indeed, it isn't. Yum.