10 March 2013

Petit salé aux cocos blancs

As I said yesterday, the pureed navy beans (in French, cocos blancs) were not nearly as nice to look at as they were to eat. The reason I cooked beans again was because I was going to finish doing the petit salé — brined pork belly — that I had put in to "cure" a few days earlier.

The brine was 100 grams of sea salt for every liter of water, along with aromatic ingredients including bay leaves, black peppercorns, cloves, garlic, shallot, and a dried hot red pepper or two. The meat stayed in it for 4 days, and since I was making it I decided to put in a duck breast filet to cure along with the piece of pork belly. I discarded the brine at the end of the curing — it's too salty to use for anything else.

Brined and poached pork belly and duck breast, with a smoked saucisson à l'ail (garlic sausage).

After four days in brine, what you do is rinse the pieces of meat well under fresh running water and then, if you want, let them soak in a couple of changes of fresh water for a two hours to further de-salt them. Then you put them in a pot of fresh cold water, with more of the same kinds of aromatic ingredients, to poach at a low simmer for about two hours. You can use the poaching liquid as a soup base (bean soup, anyone?)

The classic French country-style preparation for this kind of salt-cured pork, petit salé, involves lentils. I had a box of lentils, but I also had a kilogram-bag of cocos blancs (navy beans, pea beans) that I wanted to cook. Other times when I've cooked these little white beans, I've found that their skins stayed tough even after long, slow simmering. So this time I pureed them. They really were excellent that way.

Here the meats have been rinsed and soaked before going into a pot of fresh cold water for poaching.

And the duck breast done this way was excellent too. As you can see from the pictures here, it was certainly different from the rare, pan-roasted filet de canard that I cooked for my birthday lunch. It was obviously well-done, but it wasn't tough, stringy, or bland. The meat wasn't too salty either. This kind of brining is something I'll do again, with these meats or turkey or even chicken.


  1. Have you done much brining before? I know that some cooks swear by brining a turkey before you cook it (but that just seems so unwieldy, given the size of turkey American families usually have for Thanksgiving).

    Very interesting. Ken, I just love that you are so interested in cooking and explaining the details. Thanks for that :)


  2. Oh, by the way, did you see that Jane (Fenno) and Peter's little stone cottage is available for rental now? They've done a very nice job on it. It's listed on Air BnB: Cottage in heart of Limousin park

  3. Hi Judy,

    When you are retired, you need a hobby. Cooking is one of mine. And tromping around in the vineyard with Callie. Manger et bouger font partie des plaisirs de la vie -- comme dirait l'autre.

    Besides, I bought some petit salé from the drive-up butcher a few weeks ago and it was something like 18.50 euros a kilo! I was stunned. Mine came in at a much lower price and was just as good. Ken

  4. The last few posts brought back such wonderful memories. One day, my ex-husband and I were talking and I mentioned that I remembered a particular event because of the wonderful meal (I named the food) we had. He said "how can anyone remember the kind of food they ate 1 year ago?". Food was never important to him. I love food from anywhere in the world, love to buy cookbooks, read food blogs... I guess it is part of my culture and I enjoy it.
    (Did you guys switched to daylight savings yet? It happened early this morning in the US).

  5. Jane and Peter's place is a three-hour drive from our house, according to Google maps. Tempting...

  6. I read Walt's blog after yours and found out that you are still on "winter" time.

  7. Hi Nadege, our time change is still three weeks off -- Easter Sunday. I remember meals from 30 or 40 years ago LOL.

  8. Nadege and Ken, I remember meals from the past, too!

    Ken, Jane and Peter did an enormous amount of work on that place, from what I gather from reading the blog she put together last summer-- a whole new deck, new sliding doors there, new bathroom, new flooring in sections... well, everything, I think!


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