Dark Days, Week 20: the last dinner!

This meal was a long time in the making.  Months!

I was a studio art major in college, and I stuck basically with two dimensions because the priest who taught the ceramics and sculpture department was terribly intimidating.  Ever since then, I have been a frustrated potter!  I finally tapped the urge last summer and took my first ceramics class at the local museum.  It’s been a blast, most especially because I AM AWFUL.  Truly.  Being absolutely bad at something yet still being able to enjoy myself immensely…all new territory for me.  No perfectionism, no fear of failure:  embrace the suck!  It is so liberating!

My first teacher asked us what we were expecting to achieve in her class.  “Making a cassole,” I said, when it was my turn.

I never did accomplish that, so I bribed my second teacher into making one for me.  Although he didn’t completely follow my exacting instructions, it’s a beautiful pot.  And tonight’s meal?  Cassoulet, bien sur.

Precooking the big beans:  big limas, small limas and runner beans


  • Four-bean, three-meat Cassoulet:  King of the Garden Limas, Henderson’s Bush Limas, Scarlet Runner beans, and flageolets precooked with a smoked ham hock from Providence Farms, a Lancelot leek, garlic, and bouquet garni (even the  bay leaves were local).  Seared, smoked duck legs and breast from our farm.  Potato sausage from my friend’s farm smoked with the Easter ham in our smoker (his potatoes, pig, salt/pepper)
  • Sorrel Soup (sorrel, homemade chicken stock, carrots, potato onions, a potato, a bit of garlic, finished with goat milk)
  • Leek galette (galette dough:  home-ground flour from Ferris Organics wheat berries, Creswick Farms lard; one monster Bleu de Solaize leek sauteed first in bacon grease)
  • Greenhouse salad (mache, spinach, kale, lettuces, green onions, shallots and garlic croutons from Friday’s bread; homemade buttermilk dressing
  • Apple galette (our apples, the above galette dough, nonlocal spices, Michigan sugar)
  • Local wine, a lot of it!

Ready for the oven

Notice the Most Excellent chicken pot holder my mother-in-law whipped up for me (atop the soup pot)

Served on my own dishes and bowls and wineglasses.  How’s that for homemade??

13 responses to “Dark Days, Week 20: the last dinner!

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I want to eat at your house.

  2. simplelifeinfrance

    Wow–your cassoule looks so good! I’ve never made one myself, if you can believe it. I’m feeling inspired though!

  3. Now I gotta look up cassole. Didn’t know there was such a specific thing; I just use any old iron pot for cassoulet.
    And. Your dishes are dreamy. Lopsided and personal, just the way I like them.

  4. Even as a professional potter I STILL don’t have that many of my own dishes to eat off of! So, you are doing pretty darn good. I even gave away all my store bought pieces in an effort to instill some incentive but life (and other people’s orders) have kept me too busy to make my own. I do keep the extras or blemished ones from when I make a set for someone else. Maybe one day!
    And the food looks delicious!

  5. Oh my. Cassoulet is probably my favourite thing to eat in the world. Particularly when many of the ingredients are sourced close to home. And a spread like that makes all the sowing and potting and planting and raising and sh*t-shovelling so worthwhile. I have eaten already this evening, but that makes me feel hungry again!

  6. Love the hotpad 🙂

    Everything else looks awesome too!

  7. El, what apples do you grow that last/store until April? Or are they preserved?

  8. The cassole is lovely. Did you bribe him with a summer of farm fresh goodies?

  9. sustainableeats

    Crap. Now I’ve got to make one of those potholders, my own dishes and that cassoulet. Everything looks AMAZING!

    Those are the kinds of dishes that you just wash and dry and then reset the table. I would never put them in the cupboard. They are just too cool!

  10. That is a rocking pot holder! And I love the musing on embracing being bad at something and enjoying it. I find the most joy when I’m able to do that.

  11. What a feast, and what a way to send off the Dark Days! But, you know, “sucking” at something might just be a way of being “differently excellent”….

    Cheers~ Brett

  12. Paula! Well, you’d have enjoyed this meal, it was particularly yummy.

    Mme Slif, I didn’t know you were a potter! I really enjoy the process…plus, it’s a cheap way to get new dishes 🙂 Do give it a try if you get a chance.

    Thanks, CC. You’re lucky enough to live near Bram, go check it out when you’re feeling particularly wealthy and/or self-indulgent. Somebody gave me a Paula Wolfert book about an age ago so ever since I have thought I must somehow acquire a cassole. Have never felt that way about a tagine but…

    Annie! What’s that about the cobbler’s children being shoeless? I do know what you mean, though. I kind of went into high production mode: my plates, actually, are all still waiting to be fired (cone 10) so this was a bowl-heavy affair. But there is something about making your own if that’s what you do. You probably couldn’t settle for just one set.

    J, indeed! There’s a lot that goes into making one, but cassoulet isn’t difficult to make. Very celebratory, though. Our big meal here is Thanksgiving and though wonderful it’s really boring food. Cassoulet is NOT boring! I can see how it could be your favorite! It’s something worth planning for, so, maybe you should look at the calendar and make a date.

    Sara, thanks! I saw your oven in action and it made me wistful.

    Andy, they’re ratty apples from our ratty trees…the trees are ancient. I think they’re closest to Mackintosh, even though those are normally toast early. We have a LOT of apples yet. I should make some sauce though.

    Pamela, bribes wouldn’t work as they grow all their own too. Instead, we do trades of things. I like the barter system actually, especially for things like this!

    Aw, SE, thanks! They’re certainly fun dishes. I can’t really pick my favorites at all. And it’s gotten me thinking: there’s a glass-blowing workshop nearby too…then I stop myself. I do have other things to do.

    Stefani, isn’t it fun? I realize how much I hate potholders and dishrags but goodness I love them, however how homely, if they’re homemade. And yeah. All this character-building stuff, I am going to become quite the character if it continues!

    Brett, well, what’s funny is any of the pots are obviously mine. I can’t tell if their distinction is in their uniformly suckiness or what…my teachers say “they’re so gestural,” which makes me laugh. I *know* artspeak. “Gestural” is not necessarily a compliment! BUT, I don’t care, I love them, love doing it.

  13. Totally jealous that you were able to make the dinner and drink ware…..totally……jealous……

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