Soak those dry beans! It’s almost time for the second annual Cassoulet Cook-Off at Jimmy’s No. 43, a fundraiser for the Greenmarket of CENYC. Last year, a handful of cold cash was given to the nonprofit organization that feeds so many home cooks and chefs alike throughout the city. (Very cold, I might add, as it was also held in January.) This year, we’re hoping to raise even more, to show our appreciation for the folks who run the show, and all the farmers who are freezing their pants off selling outdoors at them these days. What better way to do that by having a several servings of savory cassoulet?
Not pork and beans. It’s French, so that makes the dish instantly sophisticated-sounding. But in reality, it’s beans, cooked in a lot of stock, fat and whatever scraps of meat one can find (often including pork). Fat and meat scraps are also the substance of sausage, and that’s the ingredient that we’ll be playing up at this cook-off, as it’ll coincide with “Greenmarket Sausage Week” at Jimmy’s. All your favorite farmers’ sausages, all week long. Especially the 16th.
This was an event that I had a great time competing in last January, and a redux of that cook-off — and remake of the comforting winter dish — we just couldn’t resist. There’s a few new perks to this year’s installment: the Greenmarket’s Publicity Coordinator Liz Carrollo will be in attendance, and she’ll also be answering questions as the “Greenmarket Guru.” Want to know which farm is at which market, when? Advice on whose pork sausages are the best? From now until January 16th, you can put your question to Liz in this post, and she’ll get back with her sagely advice.
There’s also some exciting judges. We’re honored to have Betty Fussell, author of numerous food books and longtime local food aficionado, tasting each cassoulet. Alongside her, Matt Weingarten, executive chef of Inside Park at St. Bart’s and champion of sustainable food, will be, too. Their decisions will determine some of the winners; the rest will be in the hands of the almighty Audience Vote. That means you — so don’t be shy and come on by.
I’m happy to be joined by a new batch of fellow contestants, who I’ve badgered for some clues about what they’ve got up their sleeves. There are more cooks competing in this cook-off than are listed below, and there’s still time to sign up now! If you’re interested in making what it takes to win, or just to have a good time with us, write to Jimmy Carbone at jimmypotsandpans[at]earthlink.net. More details will be coming your way, and the prizes will be plentiful, but you can plan to make enough cassoulet for roughly 200 bite-size servings, and to bring it on ready to serve.
Here’s what the contestants have to share (so far)!
Theo Peck (host, The Food Experiments): I’m proud to announce that several very happy animals heroically laid down their lives in the interest of my heavenly cassoulet.
Noah Berland (amateur cook): As of now my plan is a fish cassoulet consisting of sardine stock, white beans and olive oil poached salt cod.
Robbie Richter (chef, Fatty Cue): I’m not sure if I’m going to put a SEA twist to my cassoulet, but one things for sure, I am going to smoke my meats at Fatty Cue with my new secret weapon. Pecan wood! I’m also thinking about bringing my Central Asian BBQ for service. [Who knew there might be two cassoulets of the sea?]
Nick Suarez (host, The Food Experiments): Considering this is my first time making a cassoulet, I consider this a culinary experiment… there will be an obscene amount of duck in my cassoulet. There is no end to the confiting being done in my apartment. I will be visiting some Greenmarkets this weekend so I haven’t decided on where my other proteins will come from. There will definitely be some kind of local sausage in it as well. [Right on, Nick, maybe I'll see you there this weekend!]
Emma Feigenbaum (editor/star, Martha Stewart Everyday Food): [No word yet -- mystery!]
Erik Michielson (creator, Capture Your Flag): Planning my cassoulet attack manana with partner in crime Christian Olson and will send you a note Thursday with deets. [Dangit!]
Jesse O’Neill (director, Eats.com): [Sorry, nail-biting mystery here, too.]
Granted, I only wrote to these guys today. Okay, so if that wasn’t enough to get you revved up, here’s my secret weapon, or so I think: my cassoulet will involve an animal with four legs, known for its gaminess. There’s a sausage made with its meat originally from North Africa and popularized by France. Not sure how it’s all going to work, but that’ll be one of the trappings.
Tickets to the cook-off will be sold at the door, and it’s a $20 donation to eat all you can (and vote for your favorite). All proceeds will be donated directly to the Greenmarket. Hope to see you there!