ENOUGH OF quick cooking and record-breaking minute meals. Enter the avant-garde alternative: all-day cooking. Six-hour simmers. Longer is better.
Blustery winter weekends are made for indoor activity; why not make it cooking? Succinctly speaking, it has its merits.
Cooking can augment other indoor activities -- like old movies and spy novels -- when you want to be warm and comfortable. It takes the same amount of time to clean up, whether the soup cooks for 5 hours or 30 minutes. It excuses you from those less desirable weekend chores ("I can't clean the bathroom, my onions are saute'ing"). And what's the sense of accomplishment from spending 15 minutes cooking and 15 minutes eating? Now you can spend one day cooking and have enough for three or four dinners' worth, perhaps the whole week. Or freeze your hard work and eat well all winter.
Here are some recipes from local stay-at-homes who say it's worth it.
BARBARA ALEDORT'S CASSOULET (10 to 12 servings)
Any of the following steps -- beans, lamb and pork or the duck -- may be done a day or two in advance. This one should keep you inside for at least the whole weekend, maybe even home from work on Monday.
Beans: 2 pounds small white beans (Great Northern, marrow or pea beans) 1 pound fresh or smoked garlic sausage or polish sausage 1/2 pound fresh pork rind, in one piece 1 pound lean salt pork 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably fresh 3 whole medium onions, 1 stuck with 2 cloves 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic 1 teaspoon thyme Bouquet garni made of 4 sprigs parsley, 2 large bay leaves, 1 leek (white part only) and 3 celery tops, all tied together or in cheesecloth Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lamb and pork: 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks 1 pound lamb breast or shoulder, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks 1/4 cup freshly rendered pork fat, goose fat, lard or cooking oil 1 cup chopped onions 3 to 4 tablespoons tomato paste or pure'e or 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced 1 cup dry white wine Bouquet garni made of 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1 to 2 cups beef bouillon or water
Duck: 4 to 5 pound duckling, quartered and marinated (optional) in 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon powdered ginger, 3 bay leaves, 1 medium onion, thinly sliced and 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 4 tablespoons softened butter 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For assembly: 1/4 cup finely chopped bacon, uncooked 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 2 cups dry bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 cup finely minced parsley
To prepare beans, either soak them overnight covered with cold water or cover with cold water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then turn off heat immediately and let beans soak for about 1 hour. Proceed to cooking as soon as possible after either method (beans ferment if left to soak too long).
Drain beans and put them in a 6- to 8-quart pot or casserole. Add sausages, salt pork and pork rind. Pour in stock and bring to boil. Skim off scum as it rises to surface. After stock boils and is fairly clear, add onions, minced garlic, thyme, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Turn down heat so liquid is barely simmering. Beans will burst if cooked too fast. Simmer uncovered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. You have to watch them so that they don't get too soft; make sure they are soft but still firm, rather than mushy.
Remove salt pork and pork rind and reserve. Discard onions and bouquet. Strain the beans into a container and set aside. Reserve stock separately. If preparing this step the day before, store beans and stock separately in the refrigerator.
To prepare pork and lamb, brown both in about 2 tablespoons fat in a flameproof casserole. Remove the meat to a side dish. If the fat is burned, discard it and add more fat. Brown the onions lightly for about 5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole and add the tomato paste, the bouquet, wine and about 1 or 2 cups water or beef bouillon. Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover and cook at a simmer on top of stove or in 325-degree oven for about 1 hour. Make sure liquid does not cook away. Remove meat and set aside. Remove most of the fat from the liquid and pour the liquid into the bean stock.
If you decide to marinate the duck, combine marinade ingredients and marinate duck for 1 to 3 hours; then remove from marinade and pat dry.
Beat together 4 tablespoons butter and oil and spread mixture on each side of duck quarters. Place broiler rack about 4 inches below the heat. Place duck skin-side-down on rack. Broil duck for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, basting after 10 minutes with pan drippings. Raise heat to 400 degrees. Broil another 15 minutes, basting occasionally. Turn duck skin-side-up for 10 more minutes and then raise heat to 450 degrees and broil 10 minutes longer. Duck should be crispy and slightly underdone. When duck is cooled, trim quarters of extra fat and gristle and cut with poultry shears into small serving pieces. When fat rises to surface of broiler pan, remove and save. Scrape brown bits that cling to bottom of pan and add to bean stock.
To prepare for assembly, first combine bacon, parsley and garlic in a food processor and process until you can form mixture into a compact ball.
Peel sausages and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Cut salt pork into 1/2-inch squares. Spread pork rind in 1 layer on bottom of 5- to 6-quart heavy pot or casserole. Cover with a layer of beans. On top of them arrange half of the sausage, duck, pork, lamb and salt pork. Cover with more beans, then rest of meat and finally a layer of beans. If any sausages are left over, spread on top. Take compact ball of bacon, parsley and garlic and push into middle of the cassoulet.
Taste bean stock for seasoning. It must be highly seasoned and quite salty. Pour stock slowly over the beans so it may seep down to the bottom. It should come almost to the top of the beans. If not enough, supplement with chicken stock.
You can do all these steps the day before. Just make sure the casserole is at room temperature before heating. Spread bread crumbs in a thick layer over the beans and moisten with duck fat or butter. Set the pot on top of stove and bring to a boil. Transfer to 350-degree oven. When top has crusted lightly, in about 20 to 30 minutes, break crust into the beans with back of spoon and baste with liquid in casserole. Repeat several times but leave a final crust intact for serving. If necessary during baking, add additional stock to keep liquid from becoming too thick and beans too dry. In all, it should bake for about 1 hour. Serve from casserole.
CABBAGE SOUP (12 servings)
This is as homey a soup as they come and freezes well. While it's simmering, you can finish your book. 2 16-ounce cans whole tomatoes 46-ounce can tomato juice 2 quarts water 2 to 2 1/2 pounds top rib Marrow bones or shin beef bones 3-pound cabbage, julienned 1 cup brown sugar, approximately 1 cup granulated sugar, approximately Seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes, juice, water, top rib, bones and cabbage in a pot. Add about 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar and simmer slowly for a total of 3 1/2 to 4 hours. After about 2 hours, check for seasoning and add the rest of the sugar, less if desired. Continue simmering until ingredients have blended and soup is a deep red-brown.
GREEN LASAGNA (6 servings)
This lasagna is lighter and more delicate than other more laden lasagnas. Pasta: 1/2 cup cooked spinach, well drained 2 eggs, slightly beaten 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour 6 quarts water 3 tablespoons salt 4 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Tomato sauce: 1/2 medium onion, sliced 1/2 cup olive oil 3 pounds ripe firm tomatoes, coarsely cut, or 2-pound, 3-ounce can tomatoes 1 small carrot, peeled and diced 2 sprigs parsley 1 clove garlic 1 teaspoon salt 3 large basil leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 1 stalk celery with leaves, coarsely cut 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper (optional) 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Cheese sauce: 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons unbleached flour 2 cups hot milk 1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese 1 cup cubed fontina 1 cup cubed provolone
To prepare pasta, first squeeze most of the liquid out of the spinach. Chop very fine to the consistency of a smooth paste. Mound part of the flour on a large board or other working surface and make a well at center. Pour in eggs and spinach. With the aid of a fork, mix eggs and flour very gradually until a soft paste is formed. With your fingers mix in enough additional flour to make a firm, but not too hard, dough. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Place in an unfloured dish; cover with an inverted dish and let rest in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour.
Dough can be kneaded and rolled with a pasta machines or as follows: Take half the dough, knead if lightly, and shape into a ball. Place on a well-floured board. With the palms of your hands flatten the ball, keeping the round shape, and sprinkle with flour. With the rolling pin begin to thin the disk out in all directions, trying not to lose the round shape. Continue to sprinkle flour as it becomes necessary, so that the dough does not stick to the pin. As soon as the disk of dough is thin enough to be rolled around the rolling pin, do so: Starting from the end farthest from you, begin to roll the dough toward you, using small, even strokes back and forth, at the same time as you swiftly slide your hands inward toward the center and outward to the edges of the pin. When the sheet is all rolled around the pin, push the pin away from you to your arms' length; then vigorously roll it back toward you, so that one side of the sheet flaps several times over the board. Turn the pin 90 degrees and unroll the sheet from it. Repeat from as many times as needed for the desired thinness. Repeat with the other half of dough. Roll it thin, sprinkling often with flour to avoid sticking. Cut into strips about 5-by-8 inches.
To prepare tomato sauce, place the onion and half the oil in a saucepan and cook until the onion is lightly browned.
Add tomatoes, carrot, parsley, garlic, salt, basil and celery. Cook, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 1/2 hour, or until vegetables are very soft.
Strain, taste for salt and adjust if necessary. (If sauce is too thin, place on heat again to thicken.) Remove from heat, add the remaining oil and stir. For a more piquant sauce, just before adding the last oil, add 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper and 1 clove garlic, minced.
To prepare cheese sauce, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir until well combined with butter. Add hot milk all at once and keep stirring until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the cheeses and stir until all the bits are melted. Keep warm until you ready to use it. (If you don't use the sauce right away, you may keep it in the refrigerator for one day. Then leave it at room temperature for several hours before placing it over very low heat and stirring constantly to make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.)
To assemble lasagna, bring 6 quarts water to a boil with 3 tablespoons salt. Cook a few strips of pasta at a time for 2 minutes, uncovered. Remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop into a basin of cold water. Drain and spread over a slightly damp cloth.
Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Place in it one layer of pasta; lightly cover it with tomato sauce and dollops of cheese sauce. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and continue to make layers until you have used up all the pasta and the sauces. Sprinkle top with remaining oil and bake in a 400-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. Serve with remaining parmesan cheese in a separate dish. From "The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews"
PAULA WOLFERT'S BISTEEYA (12 servings)
The combination of flavors in this Middle Eastern dish is as exotic as an island holiday. It is a main-dish or appetizer pie sweetened with a dusting of granulated sugar. And to be authentic, it must be eaten with your hands, preferably while you are seated on cushions at a low table. 4 pounds chicken legs and thighs 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped and mixed with a few sprigs fresh coriander 1 large onion, grated and the juice squeezed out 1/4 teaspoon turmeric Pulverized saffron (put whole saffron on plate over boiling water until dry and pulverize enough for a sunny yellow 1 scant teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger (more if desired) 3-inch cinnamon stick 1/2 pound unsalted butter Salt 3 cups water 1 pound whole blanched almonds 1/4 cup salad oil Confectioners' sugar Ground cinnamon 1/4 cup lemon juice 10 eggs, well beaten 1/2 to 3/4 pound phyllo pastry leaves
Put the chicken legs and thighs in a large casserole with the herbs, onion, spices, half the butter, a little salt and the water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 hour.
Meanwhile, brown the almonds lightly in oil. Drain. Quickly crush them in a food processor. Add 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Grind until almonds are small bits. Add 4 tablespoons butter and turn machine on/off once. Set aside.
Remove chicken and cinnamon stick and any loose bones from the casserole and set aside.
Reduce the remaining liquid to 1 3/4 cups by rapid boiling. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the lemon juice.
Pour the beaten eggs into the simmering sauce and stir constantly until the eggs cook and congeal. They should become curdy but not too dry. Transfer the eggs to a deep dish and let cool. Salt to taste.
Shred poultry into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Discard the bones and cinnamon sticks.
Clarify the remaining butter. Brush a 12- to 14-inch cake, pizza or paella pan with a little butter. Cover the pan with a leaf of pastry. Drape several more pastry leaves one at a time into the pan, dribbling only a little of the butter between layers. One half of each of the leaves should extend beyond the pan sides, the other half should cover the bottom of the pan. Arrange the leaves in such a way that the entire bottom is covered.
Place chunks of chicken around the edges of the pastry lined pan, then work toward the center. Cover with the egg mixture, drained of excess juices, then sprinkle with the almond sugar mixture.
Cover the layers with all but 2 of the remaining pastry leaves, brushing lightly with butter. Fold the extended pastry leaves over the top of the pie to cover and enclose it. Place the remaining 2 leaves over the top lightly buttering each and tucking them neatly around the edges. Pour any remaining butter around the edge.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 425-degree oven. Shake the pan to loosen the pie and run a spatula around the edges. Pour off the excess butter. Invert on a large sheet, return to the pan and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
Remove, dust the top with confectioners' sugar and run crisscrossing lines of cinnamon over the top. Serve very hot.
Recipe can be halved and made in a 12-inch pie plate.
POT ROAST (8 to 10 servings)
Good for sandwiches, tonight's dinner with potato pancakes, tomorrow's dinner with red cabbage. 4 pounds brisket Salt, pepper, flour 1/4 cup shortening or bacon fat 2 large onions, sliced 1 cup sour cream 1 large carrot, quartered 2 bay leaves 1 quart beef broth 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 tablespoon sugar
Season brisket and coat with flour. Brown in fat. Remove and brown onion lightly. Add sour cream and return meat and add carrot, bay leaves, broth. Cover and simmer 3 to 4 hours. Remove meat and add tomato paste and sugar to gravy. Add additional sugar if taste is too sharp. Strain and skim. Return gravy and meat to pot and simmer 10 minutes until meat is heated through. Baste once or twice.
INDIAN PUDDING DURGIN PARK
One of the least-publicized endangered species is the Indian Pudding fanatic. This most traditional of American dishes is rarely made these days, partly because it takes all day but also because -- well, you have to willing to consider a thick, faintly sweet and earthy porridge as dessert. A big scoop of Durgin Park restaurant's homemade vanilla ice cream on top, melting into the hot pudding, helps. The reason the number of servings is not specified is that some unknown percentage of your guests will just opt for the ice cream. But an Indian Pudding lover will eat it all -- even if it takes all winter. 6 cups hot milk, divided 1 cup yellow cornmeal 1/2 cup black molasses 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup butter or lard 2 eggs 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
In a large baking dish, combine 3 cups hot milk with remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake at 450 degrees until it comes to a boil. Stir in remaining 3 cups hot milk. Transfer to a well-greased deep ovenproof dish and bake at 250 degrees for 5 to 7 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve hot, with ice cream or cold milk or cream poured over each serving.