I wanted to do something special for Valentine’s day, so I searched through my pantry for amazing ingredients to serve as inspiration. I saw my reserves of Porcini mushrooms and started thinking of something to pair it with. Remembering a beautiful Rabbit and Porcini Bourgignon I created last year, I decided to mushrooms with rabbit, but to go in the white wine direction. I purchased a big hunk of prosciutto from the market and I had a plan! A delicious slow cooked stew of rabbit and mushroom flavored by white wine and prosciutto would fit the bill!
When I was in Philadelphia last month, I bought a bit under a pound of prosciutto chunks…you know, just in case! I decided today was the day to use them. I was craving peas, and wanted to make a split pea soup. I did not have any smoked ham-hocks left, and have never liked the flavor of chunks of regular ham, so in went the prosciutto! Smoked meats give this soup a really lovely complex flavor.
When I was inviting friends to dinner, I had to explain what Cassoulet was to our non-French friends. The best description I could come up with was “pork and pork and pork and pork, duck and duck fat bean stew.” Cassoulet involves 8 different type of pig and duck meats/products. It is an incredibly rich and warming meal, perfect for the change of the weather. The complex flavor is developed by slowly stewing and roasting ham hocks, pork shoulder, pork skin, prosciutto and pancetta and made further complex by the use of duck fat and duck confit. The Tabais or cannellini beans disperse the meatiness to create what tastes like chili for the gods.
In America, the cheese course is something that happens at the beginning of the meal, as an appetizer of sorts. However, in France, the cheese course is a bridge between the main dishes and the dessert, in fact, it is frequently served in place of dessert. I really wanted to celebrate that idea on my birthday (and it meant I didn’t have to cook quite as much!).
As Gordon says, the star of the dish is a perfectly medium-rare piece of filet mignon, and I wanted to celebrate that! My friend Anwar, who runs International Grocery and Halal Meat, Inc. offered to find me a filet mignon for my dish. What an adventure that was! I came to the shop and he cut open a cow to find the tenderloin for me. I got to watch him butcher the meat and point at the cut I wanted. I ended up with about 3 pounds in two pieces. Thank you Anwar!