Quick cassoulet with black pepper cornbread madeleine

In light of the quarantine pandemics surrounding the coronavirus, my plating bestie Bri and I thought it would be a lot of fun, very interesting, and perfectly fitting if we could take canned foods and transform them into gourmet or fine dining dishes. The challenge was to see what we could make in an hour using at least two canned items. My first and immediate thought(and this is pretty obvious) was to do a dessert using canned pineapple, canned black beans, and coconut milk from a can. Or to do something with canned Asian fruits, like jackfruit or lychee. But then I realized that for the former, that wouldn’t be practical for an everyday meal setting, while for the latter, it might not be accessible. And the whole point was to make something that is both accessible and can be eaten in a practical fashion, given these current circumstances. So I scraped both of those ideas, and thought about some savory ideas. I wanted to go French, but do a little Tex-Mex fusion on it, as a nod to Bri herself. Bri specializes in French cuisine, while she’s from Texas, and she’s fluent in Spanish, having majored in it.

When I think to French cuisine, I thought to cassoulet, which is a bean stew. Normally, that takes days to prepare, but a lot of it is soaking dried beans. With canned beans, they’re already cooked and already seasoned in brine, so that omits a huge portion of that process. But just a bean stew would be kind of boring, and on top of that, wouldn’t be pretty to plate up. For my second canned item, I wanted to add some substance to the dish, and I went with spam. yeah, I know I’ll get some flack for using it, but it’s not only a canned item, but it’s a protein and I personally love to use it in fried rice or Japanese-styled curries, and in a nutshell, it’s a pork product. So I just have to treat it like a pork product and get it nice and crispy. Where the Tex-Mex influence comes in is with my seasoning of the stew, being more in line with how you’d season meat in carnitas. That and one of my garnishes, which contains my third canned item. A black pepper cornbread Madeleine. With cassoulet, I feel like there needs to be crusty bread to soak it up, and that’s where the inspiration for this garnish came from. I used cream corn for this, because by adding vinegar into that creamed corn, the milk in that becomes buttermilk, which in turn, cultures my cornbread batter. I’m tossing it in parmesan cheese and paprika to finish it, just to make it a nod to elote as well. Honestly, this dish could either be seen as a Tex-Mex take on cassoulet, or a French take on cornbread and chili, which is what I love about it. Regardless of how you see it, it’s a delicious dish that combines together everything I love about Southern cuisine and French cuisine. And the best part, it features canned items too!

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For the black pepper cornbread Madeleine:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pureed creamed corn
1/4 cup creamed corn kernels
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup brown butter + more for lining
2 teaspoons black pepper
a pinch of salt
parmesan cheese and paprika to garnish

Allow the vinegar and pureed creamed corn to sit for 2-3 minutes. Combine almost everything together besides the cheese and paprika. Pipe into lined madeleine molds and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the pans and brush with more brown butter and grate cheese and sprinkle paprika on top. 

For the stew
1 can of black eyed peas
1 can of spam
3 cloves of garlic
2 shallots
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
1 bay leaf
a pinch of paprika
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
oil
water

Sweat out diced carrot, shallot, garlic, celery, bay leaf, spices, and spam together first. Rinse out the black eyed peas. Add in your tomato paste to the mixture next, then deglaze with water. Bring up to a simmer and add in your peas. Allow to cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, then reduce down slowly. 

For the poached egg:
3 eggs
a generous pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
water

Bring water, salt, and vinegar to a simmer. Stir the water with a spoon or whisk and gently place the eggs into the water. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, and then strain out using a slotted spoon.

For the lime creme fraiche:
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 tablespoons lime juice
a pinch of salt

Loosen the creme fraiche with some lime juice, and season with salt.

For the brown butter vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons brown butter
2 tablespoons lime juice
a pinch of salt

Whisk together but keep warm so that the vinaigrette doesn’t split.

For the lardons:
6 pieces of thinly sliced Spam
brown butter

Saute the Spam in brown butter until the entire piece is completely caramelized and golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

To garnish:
Miner’s lettuce
Shaved watermelon radish

Toss radish and lettuce in the vinaigrette. Start with your cassoulet, then drizzle on your creme. Garnish with cornets of the watermelon radish, and leaves of miner’s lettuce and your egg. Place the madeleines off to the side to serve with.

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