Popular chef Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, is known for her expertise in the kitchen. Her cookbooks have sold over six million copies. The only culinary challenge she doesn’t take on is cassoulet. Developed in the Middle Ages, the dish allowed peasants to settle for what in this part of France at the time consisted of dried beans, canned duck, and canned pork. Cassoulet is labor and time intensive. The preparation takes three days and the actual cooking time five to six hours.
William ‘Bill’ Shaddock had no such qualms about conquering the cassoulet, or even the souffle or other Francais entrees, and the local foodie has passed his passion on to two of his three children.
“Anyone who can read can learn to cook,” Shaddock said, as great chefs often assure skeptics with good reading skills that they’ll be a fine dish one day and a dud the next.
It was Shaddock’s stepfather, Stephen Eugene Plauché, who sparked his interest in cooking. Plauché married his mother, Edith Burton Shaddock, when Bill was 12 years old.
“He would usually come home from his office around four o’clock and start cooking,” Shaddock said, “and I would sit and watch him and learn.”
It wasn’t long before Shaddock started delving into more complex dishes and preparing dinner on his own. In his collection of recipes, A View from Bill’s Kitchen, he wrote: “Some turned out well, some not so well! But I was addicted to cooking.”
After retiring from his law practice in 2014, Shaddock hosted a French cooking school for 13 adults, including his three children, Nancy, Mary and Stephen. It was called Le Cordon Bill School. Graduates received Le Cardon Bill chef certification.
“My first thought, after 13 people wanted to come to the class, I thought if I want to have a cooking school, I need a lesson plan and recipes, if I wanted to publish the idea within an hour, so I came up with that,” he said. He slid a notebook across the table with the heading “From Stocks to Sauces.” It contained 50 typed pages outlining the lessons for the 12-week program once a week.
“I started with chicken broth. The next class we made a veloute (vuh-loo-TAY) out of stock,” he said.
Veloute and four other French sauces serve as the starting point for a variety of delicious dishes. The class culminated in Grand Marnier souffles drizzled with Grand Marnier custard. The custard was flavored with a vanilla bean.
About halfway through his cooking school, Shaddock decided to treat the class to a cassoulet based primarily on a Julia Child recipe.
“They just raved about it and said we have to do it again. We’ll do it for you “Mr. B.” So I said yes, sure.”
Eight years later, Bill’s son Steve made good on that promise with the help of friends Mark Hanudel and Jim Perry.
“I can’t say anything bad about either of them, but I will say that maybe the first try wasn’t a home run. I’ll just stop,” he said with a deep chuckle.
Pressed for more information, Shaddock said the dish was awful, dry and tasteless.
“It wasn’t that bad,” his wife Craig chided him.
“Oh, it was so bad,” Shaddock assured.
Steve Shaddock, Hanudel and Perry do not take their culinary reputation lightly. They went back to the cutting board.
The first day they started from scratch and boned ducks. On day 3 the cassoulet came out of the oven, the bread crust was broken open with the back of a spoon to open a hole, reserved liquids were added and the dish was sprinkled with breadcrumbs and parsley and cooked for the final 10 minutes. A food lamp crisped the topping again – lightly – and the three men announced that it was done.
“They improved the recipe enormously,” said Shaddock. “For one thing, they made their own duck confit (Kown-Fee) using a sous vide machine (Sue-Veed),” he said.
Confit means preserved in French. The preservation relies on the air-blocking seal formed by the rendered fat in which the duck is dipped and then cooked.
With the sous-vide method, food is slowly cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath with an immersion thermostat.
This Child, Shaddock, Shaddock, Hanudel, Perry Cassoulet featured slow-cooked pork shoulder, pot roast lamb with demi-glace (a brown broth reduced by long simmering combined with espagnole sauce — another of those “classic French mother sauces.” Kitchen”), cannellini beans and a crunchy shell of Italian breadcrumbs browned in duck fat and tossed with a cup of chopped Italian parsley.
“It had layers and layers of flavors,” Craig said. The sausage cakes flavored with cognac, allspice and garlic were particularly tasty.”
After an earlier chat full of friendly banter about how his son stole all his recipes and wrote his name on them, he sat in the kitchen he designed himself at a table with a tall jar of “Big Dad’s Seasoning” on it – His own recipe and it’s in Pirate’s Pantry – Bill Shaddock seemed proud to pass the food torch down to his son. Why not enjoy his enviable new role as chief taster and food critic?