Cassoulet in 3 Easy Days

March 27, 2014 · 5 comments

in cooking at Home

Cassoulet

The never ending Winter weather has provided one nice side benefit – I’ve not yet tired of comforting meaty stews and braises and casseroles. I’ve made Beef Bourguignon and Indian beef stews and lasagnas and hearty curries, all soul warming dishes meant for chilly nights. But my favorite dish made this season was cassoulet.

I’ve made it a couple of times before, but usually “cheater” versions that simply take a few hours to prepare. One easy way to save time is to forgo the classic ingredient of duck confit. You can use regular duck legs and they will be perfectly tender. Or you can buy duck confit online or from somewhere like Star Provisions. Or omit the duck altogether and use a lot of pork, which is the other usual animal involved in this caloric conquest – belly, sausages, and loin are all fine. The other primary ingredient, traditionally Tarbais white beans, can be replaced with canned cannellini or other white beans.

But I wanted to tackle the full monty, and so it began, using this recipe from Michael Lewis as my guide. Warning!!! Do not scroll to the very bottom of the recipe where the nutritional value is listed, else it may throw you from the path of cassoulet righteousness.

The photo above is the best I could find from the confit process. I cured the duck overnight, with salt and pepper and thyme and pink cure #2. The latter is not necessary, but I wanted to see how it would turn out, which resulted in a very pretty pink meat color, like ham. The confit was juicy and crispy and perfect like only duck confit can be. Blasted under a broiler, there may be no finer single bite of fat and meat in the animal kingdom.

Cassoulet

Shredded and saved for later use.

Cassoulet

Preparing pork and beans, the latter being the Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans.

Cassoulet

Sausages searing. I went with a bratwurst as I thought it would lend the most clean (and not spicy) pork flavor of sausages readily available.

Cassoulet

The duck “stew” with stock, wine, tomatoes, and other aromatics.

Cassoulet

Removing belly from beans (attempting a near al dente) and chopping.

Cassoulet

The next day – assembly.

Cassoulet

Layer 1

Cassoulet

Layer 2

Cassoulet

And again…

Cassoulet

That’s right, more beans.

Cassoulet

Minced duck skin and parsley for the topping

Cassoulet

Plus bread crumbs

Cassoulet

Blasted in the oven. Ready for eating.

Really great. I could almost not have been happier. A few minor details I would do differently, and you really have to watch for those tiny duck leg bones, but I was not let down by the amount of time spent.

It’s clearly debatable whether or not it’s worth all this time, as compared to a version that may take four hours, but the amount of flavor and texture cannot be denied. I ate it for a week. Sorry, honey.

Cassoulet

  • decaturwinedude

    Looks great. I want cassoulet now.

  • Philacook

    Of course the addition of bread crumbs is always problematic. Adrian Daugin from D’Artagnan reckons it’s a heresy right up there with including lamb in the recipe.
    My taste in cassoulet is a bit more catholic. I’ve made it with breadcrumbs and without, with lamb meat and without – it’s all good. You might try a good merguez sausage as well as the bratwurst. I’ll generally do three different sausages and leave the duck meat on the bones. Plus I’ll sear the sausages and then cook them in a kind of garlic soup with lots of thyme.

  • http://www.eatitatlanta.com jimmy

    Heh, I had a friend bust my chops about the bread crumbs.

    It’s funny that there is so much conversation like this, when the dish is of such humble origins. It should be simple, but of course we all obsess over authenticity and the merits of various ingredients and steps. It’s fun.

  • Philacook

    I always liken cassoulet to chili when I’m trying to describe it to folks who’ve never eaten it. Just as many different recipes out there.
    “Cassoulet: Not just a recipe, but a way for villages in France to argue.”

  • Sally Morris

    I’ve been stuck on trying get to my best Beef Short Ribs, but I will keep this on the calendar come November. I already have the beans.

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