Sunday Suppers: Cassoulet
Cassoulet is a gorgeous peasant dish from France, made with beans, duck legs and French garlic sausage. It is baked in the oven with toasted breadcrumbs on top and is a heavenly winter comfort dish.
It makes such a difference when you use quality ingredients when preparing this dish. Try and find the best sausage, duck legs, stock, and fresh ingredients that you can. I have had too many versions that are mushy and taste like baked beans.
It is an all day affair, especially if you are getting involved with making the duck confit, however, there is excellent duck confit available from Canada and France, found in gourmet stores or online. I always buy a few cans while in Paris to bring back in my luggage, so I have it on hand. It is less expensive there and for some reason tastes better!
Another challenge is finding French garlic sausage from Toulouse. Good luck with that.
If you live in NYC, you can find it at a few places, otherwise you will have to mail order it online. You can substitute another type of garlic sausage, if you have a good butcher, ask him/her what they recommend.
Most recipes call for soaking the beans overnight, but in this recipe, you cook your beans for an hour or two on the stove, then bake them in the oven with the duck and sausages, and they come out tender and wonderful.
This is a shortcut recipe that I found in Food & Wine and Canal House Cooking, and I combined the two. The total cooking time is about 3 hours, and the preparation about another half hour.
So, put on your apron on let's get started.
Cassoulet for a Sunday: serves 8
1 can of duck confit (2-4 duck legs preserved in WONDERFUL DUCK FAT)
5 garlic Toulouse style sausages, cut in half
1 lb. dried Northern white beans
1 quart of chicken stock (32 oz. box is fine)
2 quarts of water
4 pieces of pancetta or bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch of fresh thyme
salt & pepper
2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs (from 2 brioche rolls)
3 tbsp butter
fresh parsley for garnish
In a large heavy Dutch oven, saute the onion, garlic and bacon in olive oil for a few minutes until wilted.
Now add the dried beans, and pour about 2 quarts of liquid (stock and water) over the beans to cover, season w/ salt & pepper and add some sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover the pot and cook on very low simmer for about an hour and a half.
While the beans are cooking, let's get the other stuff ready.
In a heavy skillet, pour some duck fat from the confit in the pan and brown the sausages w/ the duck legs for about 5 minutes, just to get some nice color. Save the duck fat for potatoes for tomorrow night's dinner, and remove the meat to a dish. Set aside.
Now let's check the beans.
After about an hour and a half, my beans were done. Tender, but still firm.
Place the sausage and duck legs in the casserole, tucked in with the beans. Add another quart (4 cups) of liquid (stock or water), some more thyme and cover the pot. Bake in a 350F oven for 1 hour.
Prepare the breadcrumbs: In a skillet, add 3 tbsp of butter and 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs (from 2 brioche rolls) and cook 2 minutes until toasty.
Remove the lid and scatter the breadcrumbs over the top of the beans, & bake another 15 minutes, uncovered, till nice and crispy.
Let the cassoulet rest a few minutes before serving and garnish with fresh parsley.
I would say this was the best cassoulet we have ever had.