Duck, part deux: how I made lasagna out of cassoulet leftovers

I had a pretty awesome birthday this year, topped off by a dinner out at a fantastic French restaurant.  When I have the pleasure of dining there, I order the cassoulet. (a rich, slow cooked casserole of sorts, with duck confit, pork belly and white beans) It’s decadent and delectable.  This time I also indulged in a recommended appetizer, so I couldn’t man up and finish the entire cassoulet myself.  So, I doggy-bagged that dish and brought it home to enjoy again.  But how?

leftover cassoulet

There were a lot of white beans there, which were creamy and beautifully cooked.  But I can’t just eat spoonfuls of them.  I pureed them along with some olive oil and the other stragglers -a couple of carrots and some parsley-and decided I was going to turn this doggy bag of delight into lasagna!

white bean filling

I had some lasagna noodles in the cupboard, so that covered one layer.  I decided the white bean puree would serve the same purpose at the ricotta usually does. (it had the same texture and consistency)  And I had an Italian cheese blend in the deli drawer of my fridge.  All that was left to tackle was the sauce.

leftover duck confit

I decided the duck leg from the cassoulet would substitute for the ground meat I usually work into a lasagna sauce.  So I chopped the meat off the bone, but reserved the bone (figuring it could come in handy later)

Now, a traditional lasagna sauce starts with garlic, onion and olive oil to flavor the browning meat.  Then you add tomato and spices.  So I too began with garlic, onion and olive oil and sauteed that until the veggies softened.  Then I added about 15 oz of canned tomato sauce I had in the cupboard.  I stirred in some salt and pepper, basil and oregano then tossed in the duck leg bone to incorporate that rich meaty flavor.  When the sauce got to a nice simmer, I covered it and let it mature for about 30 min on low.  duck lasagna sauce

Next, I tossed in the chopped duck meat to make for the chunky, meaty sauce that I’m used to.  I let that sit on the stove for another 15 min, also on low.

layering the lasagna

Now it was time to layer.  I started with a thin layer of my sauce.  Then I placed a no-bake lasagna noodle on top, followed by a layer of my white bean puree and a heavy handed sprinkling of Italian cheese blend.  I repeated this process twice more, ending with a layer of sauce and white bean puree mixed together.  Then a last helping of shredded cheese.

duck lasagna

I covered this French-Italian fusion experiment with foil and popped it in the oven at 350* for 35-40 minutes (until it was bubbly).  Voila!  That’s French, right?!

If I’m being honest, I could actually eat cassoulet (leftover or not) a couple times a week.  So it wasn’t my first instinct to mess with “perfection.”  But the idea of zapping this beautiful collection of ingredients into a microwave on day two made my heart hurt.  So, getting creative (or crazy) with these classic French elements was the next best thing the next day!

Herbal Harvest

It’s about that time when those of us in cooler climates have to come to terms with the fact that winter is coming.  Most of the leaves are off the trees and the first snow of the year will fall any day.  Ugh.  Before frost destroys it, it’s time to harvest what’s left of my humble garden.

I have a pair of four by four garden boxes in our back yard.  Not because I love to garden, or cultivate plants, but because I love to cook with fresh ingredients.  Each year I mix it up based on what did well the year before.  This year I dabbled in tomatoes for the first time, which were a disappointment due to our cool summer.  Same goes for the basil, an herb I could cook with every night.  My parsley, oregano and rosemary, however, blossomed this year.  Even into late fall, they’re still thriving.  But not for long.

After cutting all the herbs I could carry and spreading them out on my counter, I rolled up my sleeves and brainstormed about the best ways to maximize this aromatic harvest.

herbal harvest2

My go-to with excess herbs is some variety of pesto.  So I began by making a version of the Italian staple sauce.  As mentioned in a previous post, I usually make pesto with almonds rather than pine nuts.  They’re far cheaper, and I like the idea of putting a “super food” into a dish.  Pull out the food processor and combine roughly ¾ c. almonds with a couple handfuls of fresh parsley, a clove of garlic, ½ c. grated Parmesan, and some fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Season it with salt and pepper and fire it up.  The end game is a bright and fresh sauce that’s great on seafood like shrimp, salmon or any white fish.  Also try adding a little (like a quarter cup) cream cheese or goat cheese and toss it with linguine and a touch of pasta water.   Supplement with a protein like chicken or shrimp.   To. Die. For.

The food processor got me thinking about another idea that could set me up for an easy work day dinner: Herbed butter.  I softened some unsalted butter and blended it with a couple small cloves of garlic and parsley.  My husband loves spaghetti al olio.  So this will make it incredibly quick.  Simply cook some long pasta, and toss it with this garlic butter w/parsley, season, and add olive oil.  Top generously with grated cheese.

Then I took another stick of sliced, unsalted butter and added parsley, rosemary and oregano and garlic to make another version of herbed butter. I seasoned this with a touch of salt and pepper, then rolled it up in plastic wrap and foil and threw it in the freezer.  I plan to slice it off to use as needed on things like chicken and steak.  This will be versatile and very clutch when I’ve come home late from work and want to put together something great.

Fresh are too expensive to waste.  How have you made good use of excess?