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Traditional French Cassoulet Recipe

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A close up of cassoulet recipe

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

Hey, that’s me!!! 🙂 I was so super excited to be chosen to be one of the hosts for the Daring Cooks! I had a ton of fun working with Lisa, choosing recipes and then testing testing testing! I hope you all really enjoyed this challenge, and for those of you who are not in the Daring Cooks, I challenge you to make this at home! Its not so daunting if you break it down into three days worth, and it is SO DAMN GOOD! I made the full 8 quarts of it, fed 7 people, and had no leftovers. I would have had leftovers, but my uncle decided to take the pot and UPEND it on his plate, eating several more servings and totally disintegrating any hopes for leftovers in one fell swoop. Anyway, I think you will love this dish! Its so hearty and filling, and rich and delicious! A classic example of french “peasant” food that I think is fit for a king!

 

cassoulet on a plate with beans and bacon

I’m not joking, this stuff is pure heaven. I’ve been wanting more ever since my last bite a few weeks ago. Not just wanting it, but dreaming about it. I keep trying to find excuses to make it. This must be my own personal crack. I double dog dare you to make it and fall in love with it yourself. Then you should email me a picture of it and we can drool over it together. Which will then prompt me to want to make my own once more.

 
cassoulet in a baking dish

I made a few changes from the Bourdain/Rhulman recipe, which some would call sacreligious since this has been toted as “the best cassoulet recipe outside of France”. But hey, I was making it, and that is what cooking is all about, to breath a little bit of you into everything you make. Firstly, I used chicken and not duck. Apparently Kansas City is quite bare of duck. Secondly, I used a combination of bacon grease and clarified butter during my confiting. I searched high and low for duck fat, in all kinds of crazy places around the city, only to learn two weeks later that you could buy a jar at Williams-Sonoma. Thirdly, I threw out the pork rind and belly from the recipe (because, ew, pork belly?) and instead used a deliciously marbeled boston butt pork roast and some extra thick cut, hormone free, free-range, smoked, drool-worthy bacon. I couldn’t find any traditional “french” sausages here, so I opted for some locally made apple chicken sausages. And lastly, I’m a big “bite sized” person. I prefer chicken stips to chicken breasts. Also, I didn’t like the idea of fighting over the chicken legs, the sausages, and that giant roast at the bottom. So I sliced, pulled, and made everything into perfect sized pieces. I think this gave it more of a “stew” appearance, and I liked it.

The members of the Daring Cooks really pulled out all the stops this month, and everyone did a fantastic job! Every single cassoulet look absolutely mouthwatering, and everyone had a slightly different take on how to prepare their’s – from different meats, to different herbs used, they are all fantastic, and I you you should check out the Daring Cooks Blog Roll to see (and hopefully try) them all!

 

 

Cassoulet
Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)
Serves 4 – 8 (depending on how big your servings are! :))

 
Notes:If you can’t find duck, you may substitute with any other waterfowl/poultry. Same goes for any of the pork, you can substitute with lamb, beef, and venison, or whatever you wish.
If you can’t find duck fat, you may substitute any other fat that you want, i.e. bacon grease, lard, butter, olive oil, etc.
Pork belly may be substituted with a Boston butt pork roast, pork shoulder, pancetta or whatever you think will work and/or simply prefer due to dietary, religious, or any other personal reasons.
Pork rind may be substituted with slab bacon or you can purchase salt pork and cut off the rind.
Lisa’s Notes: I didn’t find the pork rind lining absolutely necessary (Sorry, Anthony). In fact, it was basically flavorless, and unless you can find a whole piece that fits your pot perfectly, or even two complete pieces to fit, you’ll end up with smaller pieces you may have cut to fit, like I did, floating throughout your cassoulet upon serving..
Both Jenni and I used chicken in lieu of duck, Jenni used clarified butter for her fat in the confit, and I used duck fat.
2 cups of fat doesn’t fully cover the poultry legs. Use 4 cups, if you like, like most 4 leg confit recipes call for – just double the herbs.
Jenni’s Notes: Also, if you don’t have an earthenware pot large enough, you can piece this out into several smaller containers. I used 3 containers – an enamel covered cast iron, a glass Pyrex, and a ceramic casserole dish. All three were fine, but I think the ceramic and cast iron did the best jobs.
I used canned beans instead of soaking dried beans overnight, and I ended up using twice as much as the recipe called for. This is because the recipe calls for a certain weight of dried beans, and upon soaking they double in size. Canned beans have already been soaked, so please keep this in mind, or you’ll end up sending someone to the grocery store halfway through assembly!
This recipe freezes well, so if you need to make several small batches, go for it!
 

Love cooking traditional meals that will stretch your cooking techniques? Try these dinners:

  • Chicken Ballotine – Roll up your sleeves! This meal is a challenge, but well worth the effort. Perfectly cooked chicken is wrapped around a spinach, cheese and bread stuffing. This is a fancy pants dinner to impress!
  • Chicken and Sausage Paella – This Paella recipe has bright flavors and is a lovely meal to share with friends and family.

 

Ingredients for Duck Confit
4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter
sea salt (affiliate link), for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)
2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat
a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove
Day One
1.Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt (affiliate link), place in the 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 food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.
Day Two
1.Preheat the oven to moderately hot 375ºF/190ºC/gas mark 5.
2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear.
3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.
4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.
5. 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 pulls away from the “knuckle.” The meat should be tender.
6. 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. Think of someone you hate when you do it.
chicken confit in a pan
 
Ingredients for Cassoulet
5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)
2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound/450 gm pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs
Day One

 

1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right? (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!) Hint: This step can be done the same day as day two of the confit. Or you can use canned beans and skip this step entirely.
Day Two
1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.
2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.
3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.
A close up of a fresh herbs
 
4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.
10. 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).
11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside. (this stuff, by the way, is pure heaven. I could eat this on toast. Oh, skip the toast, just use a spoon. Maybe even bath in it….)
12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.
13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive 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 purée between each layer.
bacon and beans in baking dish
 
14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.
15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.
16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Day Three
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.
2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.
3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don’t get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn’t have to be pretty.)
4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.
 

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Stove-top Cassoulet – The Gingered Whisk

Friday 11th of November 2016

[…] fell in love with it. Even though its called a “cassoulet”, it hardly resembles the hearty delicious artery clogging deliciousness I made before. This dish is bright and flavorful, light yet filling. On another, completely […]

Lis

Saturday 15th of January 2011

Jenni this had to be my most favorite challenge to date and I've really loved so many of them! You and Lis did a most fantastic job hosting and I can't thank you enough for all of your time and effort!

I was TICKLED PINK with all of the daring cooks' entries of their very own confit and cassoulet - so amazing.. all thanks to you two! :)

And I love your change of using the roast instead of the pork belly.. although I heart pork belly, I think next time I'll use a roast too. :D

Hugs!Lisxoxoxoxoxxo

Gillian

Saturday 15th of January 2011

Thank you so much for the challenge two of my favorite things cassoulet and duck confit. I had just never got around to making duck confit myself and the challenge made me do it. I will definitely make it again.

Lya de Putti

Saturday 15th of January 2011

Jenni thank you for this WONDERFUL challenge. Like you, I have found my own personal crack! Yum yum yummity yum! Jx

Lisa

Saturday 15th of January 2011

Whooo, Jenni..all done and maybe chubbier..lol Thanks again for being my partner in this. Next time I'm following you and using bacon :) BTW, baby girl's photo below is wayy too cute. My ovaries hurt lol

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