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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!