Feasting and Judging

The Great Cassoulet Challenge of 2012 has concluded. The last of the candles illuminating a cheerful gathering sputtered one final time before the flame drowned in molten wax. Sated guests mingled, music playing softly in the background …
Much earlier in the day preparations for the last round of bean baking got underway, after the cassole and the remaining reserved liquids and duck fat had come to room temperature.
Some tidbits needed to be put together for appetizers and a selection of beverages for our esteemed guests, like this seasonal beer of the Santa Fé Brewing Company,
had to be cooled. I would’ve preferred to serve my cousin’s beer, but their brewery is so new, their creations are not yet available around here. Should you ever find yourselves thirsty around Taos, NM, don’t hesitate to stop by Taos Mesa Brewing!

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.

“Benevolent Bell of Hidden Tastes”

But not this year. After careful, lengthy and quite lubricated consideration, the learned judges instead awarded their authentically Alaskan

“Benevolent Bell of Hidden Tastes” complete with Khaki Satin Band
Only a camouflage bell in 2012. Quel dommage! At least, it wasn’t the dreaded sub-classification of the “Ghillie Suited Camouflage Bell”!! It was, bien sûr, the sausages, which dropped our evaluation to camouflage. Had their flavor been just a little more distinct …
Ah, well, off we go toward next time. Happy New Year, Y’all!!

2 thoughts on “Feasting and Judging

  1. The sausages come from 'Whole Foods' (!!). I believe, they were just too healthy & high quality – in other words, not enough fat! Through the long baking process, they turned hard and flavorless. I really think, you should make some more authentic saucisse de Toulouse for me. I found this recipe (there're many on line) in a French blog. As you can see, you need about 1/3 lard to 2/3 pork shoulder & belly. Not your contemporary health food 🙂

    800g d'épaule de porc
    180g de poitrine fraiche
    330g de lard gras
    20g de sel/kg de farce
    3g de poivre/kg de farce
    1 bonne pincée de 4 épices (allspice, best freshly ground, much more aromatic)
    10g de sucre/kg de farce
    1cc d'herbes de provence mixées (I'd use a lot more, nicely rubbed to release to oils)
    1 gousse d'ail hachée (for the cassoulet assembly, you add quite a bit of garlic paste)

    Grind meats with medium disc.
    Measure the seasonings according to the weight of the ground meats.
    Add salt, pepper, allspice, sugar, herbs, and garlic.
    Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
    Using a wooden spoon stir until the mix is slightly sticky.
    Fill the casings & keep sausages in fridge until ready to cook.

    I bet, they'd be a lot better than the fancy one in my next cassoulet!!


  2. Where did you get the sausages? “garlicky saucissons – basil and pine nuts and black pepper sausages.” sounds incredible. Any idea what went wrong? The quality of ingredients from the beginning?


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