Cassoulet

Fall is upon us, and with the cooler nights come cravings of warm comforting meals. Here we take a page(or two or three!) from Anthony Bourdain's book.  As he states, this is a great, not very difficult dish to make, and it doesn't take much time--if you spread the work over three days. We begin with the confit and move on from there. It will survive happily in your fridge for weeks, you can make it way in advance.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DUCK CONFIT

  • 4 duck legs
  • sea salt
  • 2 cups duck fat
  • black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove

DAY ONE

Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in a shallow dish, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination--meaning don't allow any other foodstuffs like breadcrumbs or scraps to get into your duck fat or confit as they will make an otherwise nearly nonperishable preparation suddenly perishable.

DAY TWO

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Render(melt) the duck fat in the sauce pan until clear. After seasoning with the black pepper(not too much), place the duck legs in a clean, ovenproof casserole, nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with it, and pour the duck fat over the legs to just cover. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the "ankle" of each leg away from the "knuckle." The meat should be tender.

Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. I highly recommend the former. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat. 

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CASSOULET

  • 5 cups white beans
  • 2 lb fresh pork belly
  • 1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 lb pork rind
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup duck fat
  • 6 pork sausages
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 4 confit duck legs

DAY ONE

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least two or three inches of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. 

DAY TWO

Drain and rinse the beans and place in a large pot. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 lb of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni. Cover with water, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about an hour. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni. Remove the pork belly, cut it into two-inch squares, and set aside. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid. separately.

In a saute pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside, draining on paper towels. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic, and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans(not the unused pork rind; you'll need that later). Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining duck fat and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof earthenware dish. You're looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit, and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind puree between each layer. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup in the refrigerator for later use. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to 250 degrees F. and cook for another hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

DAY THREE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F again. Cook the cassoulet for an hour. Break the crust on top with a spoon and add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees F and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

After such time and care preparing this dish, best to enjoy it with a delicious red wine. We opened the 2009 Chateau Renard Mondesir Fronsac Bordeaux. This lively Bordeaux pairs well with the full flavours of the cassoulet. And you can enjoy a bottle yourself! This wine is available at LCBO Vintages as of October 17, 2015. It scored 90 points with Wine Spectator.

Bon Appetit!