Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: La Vie en Marczyk cassoulet

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Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with a spacious kitchen. They often bring some of their market's best ingredients home with them and cook up a feast, and when they're not cooking at home, they're working with the staff at Marczyk's to create recipes for the rest of us to enjoy, often turning to Whitney Ariss, a home cook and the market's marketing project manager and events coordinator, for inspiration.

"I wrote this recipe specifically for our Marczyk After Hours event coming up on Sunday, which features cassoulet," says Ariss, adding that "cassoulet is one of the quintessential French comfort foods" and "a dish that all fans of slow-cooked, meat-laden goodness should have in their kitchen repertoire."

See also: Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: slow cooker barbecued ribs

There are numerous recipes for cassoulet, admits Ariss, but there are certain ingredients, she insists, that are non-negotiable: "You need to use really good white beans -- don't let anybody tell you to use the canned ones! -- plenty of duck (or goose) fat, and freshly made French-style sausages," says Ariss, adding that all of these ingredients are available at Marczyk's. "Our house-made French sausages were created specifically to be the ideal sausage for cassoulet for their garlicky flavor (with just a hint of white wine) and their smaller size," she notes.

Her recipe starts with Rancho Gordo classic cassoulet beans. "For all the fussy Francophiles out there, you might already know that for truly authentic cassoulet, you must find a French-grown Tarbais bean, and Rancho Gordo's cassoulet beans start from authentic tarbais seed, but are grown in California, and we'll be a monkey's uncle if you could tell the difference," she promises. "They're perfectly suited for cassoulet because they're large, creamy, and hold their shape through those hours and hours of slow-cooking while a lesser bean might turn to mush," she adds.

Cassoulet is a hearty fall dish that doesn't require a side dish or salad to steal its thunder, but, insists Ariss, "you absolutely must serve it with plenty of good -- and preferably French -- bread for sopping up all those lovely liquids." She recommends a baguette, or the miche loaf from Marczyk's if you're making the cassoulet for a crowd. "A little bit of soft, salted butter on the table is the only other thing you need for a perfectly wonderful and decidedly French meal," she says.

La Vie en Marczyk cassoulet 8 servings

For the Beans 1 pound Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans (or other dried, white beans such as Great Northern) Olive oil 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 onion, peeled and halved 2 carrots, peeled 1 ham hock Water Chicken stock

Directions 1. Cover beans in plenty of water and soak overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside. 2. In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté garlic in plenty of olive oil until fragrant, about one minute. Add garlic with the oil, onions, carrots and ham hocks to beans and cover with half water and half chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower and simmer beans until tender and creamy (about two hours), adding more liquid as necessary so the beans are just covered. 3. Remove ham hocks and allow to cool. Chop up ham meat (discard skin, bone and gristle) and add back to the beans.

For the Stew 1 pound lamb shoulder, cubed Salt and pepper About ¼ cup duck fat 1 onion, diced 2 carrots, diced 8 cloves garlic, minced 3 sprigs thyme, chopped 3 sprigs sage, chopped 1 cup white wine 3 tablespoons tomato paste 3 cups chicken stock 2 legs duck confit 4 French sausages Olive oil 1 ½ cups bread crumbs

Directions 1. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons duck fat over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper and brown in the fat for about 8 minutes. Add onions and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 6 more minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add chopped herbs and white wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomato paste and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about an hour. 2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons duck fat over medium-high heat. Add duck legs and sear both sides until meat is warmed and skin is crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside duck and cook sausages in the pan using the leftover duck fat (add a little more, if necessary) until they're browned on all sides but not cooked all the way through, about 7 minutes. 3. Cut cooked sausages into 1-inch slices and pull duck meat off the bones, resereving the fat and bones for another use (like stock). Stir sausages and duck meat into the lamb stew.

Assembly Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix beans together with the lamb stew and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into an earthenware casserole or dutch oven. Toss bread crumbs with enough olive oil to coat them, then layer on top of the cassoulet. Bake, uncovered, for about 3 hours at 300 degrees.

For more from Pete, Barbara and Marczyk Fine Foods, visit the market website. And be sure to check out Pete's blog and Marczyk Fine Wines.

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