Cassoulet. I’ve always thought of this as a quintessential French dish – much too difficult, time consuming and complicated to make. To be fair, it really does take quite a long time to make, though not necessarily in active time, just duration of effort.
Broken into its parts, there isn’t anything overly complicated. I’ve made hundreds if not thousands of pots of beans. I did not make or eat duck confit before, though I’ve even seen it in WFs. But, my friend Betsy assures me it’s easy and a favorite. We were to make it as a separate recipe a while back, but I missed it – I’ve included it herein.
Slightly complicated was finding the specified ingredients. I live in a small town. We have a Whole Foods, so it’s not Podunk, but it’s not a City either. Pork Belly? They were actually getting some in – the next day. So that was a delay. Unsmoked ham hock? No dice – smoked it was. Duck legs – check the freezer case. And all in all, my meats were all the amount for the full recipe. But as noted above, I’ve cooked a dried bean or two – I went with half of the beans – 1 lb. was more than plenty. So my recipe was heavier on the meat end than the recipe, but no big deal.
The confit. Duck legs are marinated in some spices overnight, in a tight-fitting pan. Not having any idea of what the weight was supposed to be, I just went with what we had.
The legs get roasted very, very slowly, and are supposed to end up with a crispy exterior. Again – having no idea of what I’m doing, doubtful that they were done correctly, but they at least looked pretty!
And, that rendered fat made for amazing potatoes!! I did try some by itself. Good. But again, not sure.
On to the other components. The beans get soaked, then cooked slowly until tender and creamy. I’m not at all sure where people live where dried beans cook in less than an hour – surely not here. Mine needed several hours of cooking to be tender. They were delicious on their own, however. Cooked in a classic style with a ham hock bone, some bay leaves and vegetables. I liked the whole or halved carrot – flavored nicely, but didn’t disappear. Another step was the pork belly. I felt bad when I made them bring it out and cut me a small piece – so now I need to come up with something to do with the other half. But pork belly is awfully delicious, even if it’s not very good for you! It gets cut up, and then braised until tender.
The other preps are for cutting up the duck legs into pieces, and browning sausages. I got bulk and just formed them for browning.
All of the meats get nestled into the beans, along with the carrots that are diced, some of the ham from the hock, and the onions that are pureed with a bit of the juice from the beans (good trick!). Then there’s more water/stock added – I had some from the pork belly braise so used that. It gets a topping of bread crumbs, and then it’s ready to go into the oven.
The cassoulet is to bake for several hours, with the crust being broken a time or two. I didn’t have enough “crust” to make that an issue, though it did brown nicely. I didn’t have enough time to make this, then refrigerate it, and then re-heat it slowly in the oven for another couple of hours. We had it with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce. And a little Beaujolais Nouveau. A nice country French dinner for a cold winter’s evening!
This was delicious. A great, warming meal. Love the flavors – though I’m not 100% certain that they are very different than other bean dishes (maybe it’s a cousin to Hoppin’ John or Red Beans & Rice). I think I would have preferred it a bit more saucy. But altogether delicious, and was of course, delicious left over and re-heated (though not in the oven for a couple of hours). Would I make it again? Maybe in parts. The beans were terrific, and I loved the technique with the onions and the carrots. Definitely to be done over. Liked the rest, very much. But I don’t often have days to put something together. I’d really love to taste some expertly prepared confit!
So, what does a girl do? I have a recipe somewhere that I picked up in the UK for a Cassoulet, it was good. But what I often do, is to make a recipe for Cassoulet Soup that serves 2 (or 3) that I pulled out of Bon Appétit years and years ago.
1 small onion, chopped
3 ounces Kielbasa or other fully cooked smoked sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 c chicken broth or stock
1 15-ounce can cannellini or great northern beans, drained
1-1/2 cups diced leftover cooked goose or other dark poultry meat (chicken thighs are fine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Sauté onion and Kielbasa in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until onion is soft, and sausage is light brown. Add thyme and stir 1 minute. Add wine and boil until slightly reduced. Add beans, broth, and poultry. Simmer until hot through, and flavors are combined. Garnish with parsley for serving.
I like the idea of adapting my simple soup recipe with some of the techniques that are in this recipe. If I had some duck confit, sure! and the carrots were good. Make a pot of beans, and it’s one of the down-stream makeovers. Maybe some crispy breadcrumbs on top. Sure, it’s not the original, but very tasty.
This was such a fun recipe to make. I’m excited to see how everyone’s dish turned out. You can find out too at Cook the Book Fridays.