The usual pre-festivity activities, like dancing through the house with a three-foot-wide mop to the sound of rock and roll Santa oldies could also be observed.
And naturally, the ancient oakwood judges’ table had to be polished to a high sheen and was then set with the finest linen, edged in bobbin lace of silk, gathered in sterling silver rings. Cut crystal graced the elegant place settings – not!
Just to be on the safe side, we did wrap a little ‘consideration’ for the judges. We presented them with a jigsaw puzzle, titled “In Vino Veritas”, designed by the unforgettable, late cartoonist Roger Blachon. It’s semi-to-nude bacchanalian wine tasters added just the right sense of gravitas to our solemn occasion, don’t you agree?
We did have an awful lot of fun, even though the Ayocote Blanco beans were not quite as al dente as I would have wished. The traditional Tarbais beans clearly outperform their Mexican sisters. The sausages were a little disappointing, needing a dab of mustard to revive them sufficiently. The duck legs were as flavorful, soft and rich, as only duck confit can be, which consolidated the balance of textures and flavors to a pleasing whole. Nevertheless, our efforts of this year’s Great Cassoulet Challenge didn’t measure up to full points for a “Blue Ribbon of Excellence”, as we were honored to receive in 2009. A level of excellence we still cherish to this day and hope to achieve again.
But not this year. After careful, lengthy and quite lubricated consideration, the learned judges instead awarded their authentically Alaskan