Wish Upon A Dish: Cassoulet

January 14, 2011


While this is a recipe, it is not part of the weekly roundup. This is for a cooks challenge I do every month.
Next week there is a Turkey Sausage Cassoulet on the menu and I will be taking the successful parts of this recipe and adding to the one on the menu. So far, this challenge is my best work. The Sweet Potato Noodle Kugel will be posted at noon.
Thank you for understanding.

This months challenge was one I honestly have wanted to make for years now.

A cassoulet using a confit....

What exactly is a confit? Well, it is an ingredient, whether meat, fish or vegetable, that is slow cooked, braised, baked, or roasted in a fat of some kind.

Can be duck (traditional), turkey legs (Emerils), pork chops and rabbit (which is what I want to confit next time) and vegetables like leeks or garlic (which I have made with Rich Bayless' Garlic Mojo) and endive and even fennel.

I love the whole idea of slow cooking a meat in it's own fat or olive oil.

I am actually going to create a confit, using the Crockpot. Yup, that's right, the Crockpot.
Not only that, but, I will be making a cassoulet for 2, yup, 3 days work for 2 people.
Let me explain how I intend to do it.............

Actually besides the actual baking of the final finished casserole, I am making the confit and cooking the beans in 2 different sized slow cookers. I have a full sizes one for the duck and a 5 cup one for the beans.

I want to show that you can make a labor intensive, 3 day dish, the authentic way, while you work (or while you have other things to do).

I went to my local butcher and purchased 4 different sausages along with a whole duck.
I seasoned it simply with salt and into the crock pot it went. Set on Low for 8 hours, I went off on , my merry way while that duck slow cooked in it's own fat & juice.
When I got home I pulled out the meat, drained the liquid and stored both, together, in the refrigerator.

While the duck is in the fridge you can soak the beans. Again, I am adding a touch of mine here. I am adding salt to the soaking water but washing the beans off before cooking so none of the salt remains.
This firms up the skins but does not effect the interior so it cooks perfectly without bursting as they are known to do.
The next day, in my small 5 cup slow cooker, cover the rinsed beans with cold water, fat back or bacon or pancetta, bay leaves, a mirapoix if desired, whole garlic cloves and whole peppercorns. This is where you would use your parsley stems.
Cook for at least 5 hours, pressing a bean between your fingers to test for doneness. Remember, they have to cook for another 3 hours, then again right before serving for another hour or two so slightly firm would not be a bad thing.
This can be done up to 4 days before. Drain, reserving liquid separately and refrigerate until use.

Saute the sausages in duck fat and assemble the cassoulet.

Bacon (pancetta or pork rind) beans, duck meat, more bacon, more beans, the sausages and repeat. I used pancetta to line the baking dish and then 2 slices of bacon for the interior.

Cover with the reserved bean cooking liquid and bake for 1 hour in a 350F oven then reduce to 250F for another 30 minutes.

Here's a closeup of the assembled cassoulet before the first baking. I sauteed onion and garlic in duck fat until they were caramelized. I used brandy to deglaze the pan and then pureed the mixture. It was thick so I added some bean cooking liquid to thin it out and dropped spoonfuls on top of the cassoulet. Then I poured more of the cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving the rest for tomorrow's last braising.

This is after the first baking. It smells amazing so far. Can only get better hanging out for a day in the fridge. I will cool, cover and refrigerate it.

Last night I baked the cassoulet for 1 hour at 350F and then at 250F for another 15 minutes. Before I baked it, I added another 1/4 cup of the bean cooking liquid. When it comes out of the oven there is this crust that forms on the top. As soon as you break into it, you can actually taste the dish before you eat it.
Serve, hot & steamy with a good hearty bread.

Using the Crockpot made this dish doable, I do not think I sacrificed anything by taking a 'shortcut' that really did not change the flavor, texture or presentation.
I would do this again, the same way, maybe with less pork fat. Next week I will give you a healthified and 30 minute version of this dish.

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