Retired Dentist Makes Hearty French Dish
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Retired Dentist Makes Hearty French Dish

Mitch Lippman spent days perfecting a French cassoulet while substituting kosher friendly ingredients.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Retired dentist Mitch Lippman took days to perfect his French cassoulet recipe substituting for kosher ingredients.
Retired dentist Mitch Lippman took days to perfect his French cassoulet recipe substituting for kosher ingredients.

Mitch Lippman credits his passion for cooking and specialty cuisine to his New York childhood. “Like many other Jewish boys, I worked, or rather slaved, as a waiter at Borsht Belt hotels in the Catskills during the summer. Waiting on 36 hungry guests at a time for three meals a day serving a la carte, I took in over $400 a week in tips.

“It was a marvel to work in the hotel kitchens and witness how the chefs, sous chefs, salad chefs and ‘in house’ bakers were able to come up with different and delicious kosher style meals on a daily basis. The standing joke by comics who performed at the hotels was that the guests had to tip well because their waiters were their future doctors and dentists.”

Fast forward, Mitch and wife Sherlyn have traveled the world assessing all types of food, French cuisine being one of their favorites since they befriended several families in France 30 years ago and have attended European family occasions. Mitch claims that Sherlyn, also an avid cook, after 52 years of marriage, has never made the same meal twice. He reminisced, “We have visited India twice, Mongolia last year, where we slept in the Gobi Desert in ger camps (Mongolian yurts) for a week. Add the beautiful Norwegian coast by Hurtigruten voyages two times, Antarctica, where we kayaked among humpback whales, Machu Pichu, Israel, Egypt, Russia, and Angkor Wat, sampling local cuisine along the way.”

As autumn temperatures drop alongside the pandemic fascination with hearth and home meal preparation, Mitch took this “stay at home” opportunity to further his cuisine repertoire. With terms like soaking, roasting, crushing, crumbling, mincing, marinating, herb sachet, and mashing, Lippman had the patience and determination to take on a traditional French cassoulet, a long-simmering stew from the southwest of France.

Lippman’s beans simmer with their herb sachet.

Some say each town has its own variation of this comfort food. Serious Eats’ the Food Lab in April oozed, “Cassoulets are large bubbling vats of beans and meats covered in a dark crust{that is} overwhelmingly simple, the main flavor being just that of cured meats, a good stock, and beans.” In Lippman’s recipe, one will need both a 6- and 8-quart pot.

Traditionally, cassoulets contain duck, lamb, white beans, tomatoes, breadcrumbs and vegetables, often interchangeable. A far stretch comparison would be cholent, a next-day overnight Shabbat dish with many variations of beans and meat. Gourmet chefs find cassoulets rich, complex and satisfying, best served with salad, crusty bread and fruit tart, and, of course, a nice wine. Lighter versions substitute chicken for meat ingredients. Mitch recommends a French red table wine from the Cahors region. Or a hearty red like malbec. Some suggest a hearty oaked chardonnay.  Cassoulet leftovers can be frozen and reheated.

When Mitch, an age-defying octogenarian, is not cooking, he can be found

At his lake house, Mitch is handy with Peking duck.

snow skiing or waterskiing at his Blue Ridge lake house, doting on his grandchildren and preparing another of his specialty dishes, like Peking duck.

Mitch was active in the Jewish Family & Career Services PAL program and one of the few grandfathers to have a pal.  Retiring after 43 years in dentistry, he said, “Next year we’re off to Montevideo where we sail to Cape Verdes off the coast of Africa. We spent our honeymoon in Spain and Portugal during Franco’s and Salazar’s dictatorships and haven’t stopped traveling since. Stay tuned for more exotic recipes.”

Cassoulet

Serves: 6 to 8

1 pound Great Northern beans

½ of a 6-pound roasted duck, sliced

1 pound chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 pound lamb shoulder or from lamb

chops, cut into 2-inch squares

2 Hebrew National knockwursts,

¼-inch slices

¼ cup vegetable oil (for chuck) and ¼

inch of vegetable oil (for lamb)

2 cups dry white wine

1 can beef bouillon

4 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring

2 mashed garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons tomato puree

1 teaspoon thyme

1 cup sliced onions

1 cup minced onions

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cheesecloth herb bouquet

2 cloves

2 unpeeled garlic clothes

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs of fresh parsley

Chuck marinate

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon ground or crushed sage

1 crumpled bay leaf

1 clove mashed garlic

1 cup white wine

Salt and pepper

1. Marinate the chuck overnight in a bowl with the marinate ingredients. Roast the duck at 325 F for 3 hours in an oven on a wire rack over a large pan covered with aluminum foil to catch and collect the fat runoff. When done, slice half the duck in thin pieces. The beef and duck are used in the next day’s recipe.

2. Start by adding beans to 5 quarts of boiling water, bringing back to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let beans soak for one hour.

While beans are soaking, brown chuck pieces in a saucepan with the 1/4 cup vegetable oil, being careful not to let the meat or oil burn. Set aside the cooked chuck with its juices.

In a separate large saucepan, brown several pieces of lamb at a time (that has been dried with paper towels) in the ¼ inch of vegetable oil, being careful not to burn oil and meat. Lower heat and brown onions in same pan.

In a very large saucepan place the cooked lamb, beef and their juices, along with the mashed garlic, wine, half the thyme, tomato puree, bay leaves, beef bouillon and one cup water. Bring to simmer on stove top, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for 1½ hours.

Remove beef and lamb and set aside to be incorporated in final baking.

Discard the bay leaves and save the cooking sauce.

3. In an 8-quart pot filled with 5 quarts of water, add the soaked beans, herb sachet, sliced onions, sliced knockwurst. Add liquid smoke. Bring to a simmer, slowly uncovered and cook for 1 ½ hours. Adding boiling water to keep beans covered. Drain, remove knockwurst and reserve cooking liquid. 

4. For the final assembly, use a 6-quart ovenproof enamel casserole. First add layer of beans on the bottom, then a layer of meat (beef, duck and lamb) and repeat with all of the beans and meat. Then add the liquid from cooking the lamb and reserved bean cooking liquid if needed to fill casserole.

Place in refrigerator for next day baking.

5. Cover the top with a thick layer of breadcrumbs and drizzle about ½ cup duck fat on top, cover casserole and simmer on stove top for 20 minutes. Take from stove and place in 375 F oven for 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 F and mash down crusted top layer and cook for one more hour checking periodically to make sure top of beans are covered adding some reserved bean cooking liquid if necessary.

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