The big day – Cassoulet!

cassouletThe big day has arrived. Hit by a cold front, with temperatures in the teens, what better day than today to spend hours in the kitchen, experimenting with a new dish? I’ve never made cassoulet, but have eaten plenty of it. Often, if I’m in a French restaurant I will order it precisely because it’s one of those things that you normally wouldn’t have time to do at home. I looked over many recipes, and found this one from Saveur magazine that sounded good, and not too hard. Cassoulet is one of those things that changes region by region, so I went for one that sounded yummy to me. Your version might be vastly different, but that’s the nature of the dish! I’m inspired now to make it again, but this time making my own duck confit, as I learned to do in my cooking class. More time needed for that, of course, but with a little planning…. If you are going to make this, make sure that you allow at least 6 hours start to finish (and don’t forget that you will need to soak your beans the night before), and read all the way through before starting. The first three hours are active cooking time, the final three it is in the oven, so you can go do something else. This would also be a great dish to make for a dinner party, and bake in individual casserole dishes, if you happen to have those.

Cassoulet from Saveur magazine

1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tbsp. duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 confit duck legs (optional)
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

  • Soak beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight. Heat 2 tbsp. duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
  • Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tbsp. duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.
  • Meanwhile, sear duck legs in 2 tbsp. duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.
  • Heat oven to 300˚. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat. Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook cassoulet until crust is golden, about 5 minutes.

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