Cassoulet is legendary dish that dates back to the 14th century. Southwest France during the hundred year war was the environment for creating a dish that would feed those that needed it that day and become a dish that would go down in history as well. As the soldiers found their selves surrounded they pulled together to make a meal with their last remaining rations. Though, the battle was lost the new filling dish became known as the cassoulet became a fixture in the cuisine style of the land.
legs of duck confit
• 2 pounds
dried white beans (Great Northern are excellent)
pound fresh pork rind or bacon, cubed
• 2 bay
teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/2 pound
carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
• 1/2 cup
goose fat (see note) or butter
• 2 1/2
pounds fresh all-pork garlic sausage (Polish or German sausage is fine)
• 1 pound
medium-sized onions (about 4) thin sliced
• 2 cloves
1-pound-10 3/4-ounce cans imported plum tomatoes, undrained
• 2 cups
fresh bread crumbs, blended with
• 2 cloves
finely minced garlic
day before the cassoulet will be served prepare the beans. Rinse them well and
pick them over to eliminate tiny stones. Put them in a Dutch oven or large
saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the
heat. Allow to sit 40 minutes.
in another large saucepan cover the fresh pork rind or bacon with cold water and
bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer for several minutes, rinse, drain and set
aside. This is done to remove the salt, which would have a toughening effect on
this time the beans should have swollen. Discard the liquid (to help make the
beans more digestible), rinse the beans and cover them again with cold water.
Add the bay leaves, thyme, and drained pork rind or bacon and bring to a boil
over medium-high heat. Boil vigorously for about 45 minutes to one hour, or
until the beans are quite well-cooked but still a bit firm. Add the carrots and
additional boiling water if necessary and cook an additional 15 minutes, or just
until the carrots are cooked. The mixture should not be too dry. Remove from the
heat, stir in a tablespoon salt and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and
a very large frying pan melt three tablespoons goose fat (or butter). Add the
sausages all in a single coil, if you can, and cook them over medium heat for
about 12 minutes on one side, about 6 minutes on the other side. (Remember which
side was cooked for the shorter time. When the cassoulet is assembled, you will
place the sausage with the less cooked side down, so the remaining fat will soak
into the bean mixture.) You need not prick the sausage. Remove the sausage from
the pan and set aside.
the same saucepan, add an additional three tablespoons goose fat (if necessary)
to cook the confit. Let it come to room temperature to soften the fat and remove
all of the confit pieces, wiping off the fat as you remove them. Now saute the
pieces of confit over medium-high heat until the skin is very crisp and turns a
rich, deep brown. Baste off the fat as necessary. The duck should cook about
five to 10 minutes on each side. Remove from the frying pan, drain and set
the bean mixture from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature.
oven to 325 degrees.
the same frying pan, add two tablespoons goose fat (if necessary) and cook the
onions over high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the liquid and a
clove of garlic and cook until the mixture is fairly dry, or about 30 minutes.
The mixture should be a rich, deep red. Combine the bean and carrot mixture with
the tomato and onion mixture.
the bones from the duck confit and cut the duck into large chunks without
removing the skin.
the cassoulet in a large, earthenware casserole. An oval casserole measuring 12
by 17 by 3 inches deep is a perfect size for this recipe. Rub the inside of the
casserole with one clove of garlic and discard the garlic. Layer in this order:
a single layer of the bean mixture, using about a third of it. Cover this with
the cutup pieces of duck. Add a second layer of the bean mixture. Add the
sausages in one layer with less-cooked side down. Add the last layer of beans.
Finally, add the bread-crumb mixture. Be sure there is at least half an inch of
growing space between the bread crumbs and the rim of the casserole.
in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the crust is golden and
firm. Serve immediately.
YIELD: 10 to 12 servings