Sunday, March 1, 2015

Classic Cassoulet #SundaySupper

Apparently the essential ingredients of a classic cassoulet are hotly debated and depend on the region of France. Although all will include beans, the meat that is added varies. Today’s tasty dish is in the Languedoc-style with confit duck and sausage and bacon. It's my favorite. 

When I started this blog, it quickly became both a place of experimentation and recording old favorites, a creative outlet where I could explore the food options as I moved from Kuala Lumpur to Cairo and then on to Dubai, even as I cooked and reminisced about family recipes. For all the things I missed when left behind, I discovered new options that had not been available to me. Two years ago, we were newly in Cairo and I wrote a post about butchering a whole duck, using the breasts for one meal, making confit out of the legs and thighs and then roasting and simmering the carcass for rich stock. Eventually, when my mother came to visit, that duck confit was turned into a classic cassoulet, one of the tastiest dishes ever concocted, but with some of the ugliest photos ever snapped so it never saw light of day in this space. I’ve since made it a couple of times but somehow never got around to posting those either.

When I saw that the theme for today’s Sunday Supper was Beantastic, I knew cassoulet would have to be revisited yet again. The photos still aren’t spectacular but I think the richness of the dish shines through. Cassoulet is meant to be peasant fare but, unless you have a duck you've hunted for yourself to make confit, that one ingredient is kind of expensive to buy. Let me say this, though, it’s totally worth it, not just for what it adds to the cassoulet but also for the extra duck fat you get that sits around the confit duck in the can or jar. Save that stuff! It’s fabulous!

Many thanks to Tammi from Momma's Meals for hosting this great Beantastic event!

1 lb or 450g dried white beans
1 medium onion
2 large onions
10 cloves garlic
7 oz or 200g slab bacon (I like smoked bacon. Some purists say it should be unsmoked. Pffft to them.)
2 bay leaves
Several fresh thyme sprigs
Olive oil
1 1/4 lbs or 540g fresh pork sausage
4 leg/thighs duck confit  - You can make your own. It’s not hard, just time consuming. Or buy the ones in a big can or jar. For this dish, I used these from Rougié.  <affiliate link
Black pepper

Soak your dried beans overnight or cover amply with boiling water and leave to soak for one hour.

Meanwhile, cut your medium onion into quarters and cut your slab bacon into chunks.

Pour off the soaking water and put the beans into a large pot with the thyme sprigs, the quartered onion, the bacon chunks and one bay leaf. Cover with fresh water and cook until tender over a low fire. Stir the pot occasionally and add more water, if necessary. You do not want the beans drying out.

Drain the beans and bacon and reserve the cooking liquid. You can discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf but the onion has probably melted away to almost nothing so I wouldn’t worry about it.

Scrape the fat off of the confit duck legs and thighs and save it in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

Slice your other two onions and your garlic and slowly caramelize them in a saucepan over a low heat, with a drizzle of olive oil or, better yet, some of the lovely duck fat you just saved.

If you are just sitting around, waiting on your beans to cook to tenderness, you can wait till the onions and garlic are caramelized and use the same pan to brown the sausage. Or use another pan and get on with it, if your beans are already ready.

When your onions/garlic are well caramelized, eyeball the pan (or the bowl into which you have transferred them to reuse the pan for the sausage) and mentally divide it into three major portions with a little leftover for the final topping.

Brown your sausage in a little olive oil or a little duck fat.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

In a cassole or casserole dish, start with a good drizzle olive oil or duck fat, then add almost one-third of the caramelized onions/garlic. Top with half of the cooked beans and tuck the browned sausage into the beans. Sprinkle with salt and few good grinds of fresh black pepper. Add on some more (perhaps almost one-third again) caramelized onions.

Now spoon on the rest of the beans, the boiled bacon chunks and season again with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

For the final layer, add almost all of the remaining caramelized onions and top with the confit duck and then the very last of the caramelized onions. Pour in some of the reserved bean cooking liquid to cover the beans and come half way up the duck. Not pictured here but you should: Tuck a bay leaf into the liquid.

Bake in your preheated oven for about an hour or until the duck is lovely, golden and crispy on the outside and the beans melt in your mouth.

Serve with a hearty red wine and some crusty bread to mop up the juices.


Check out all the Beantastic recipes we have for you today!

Beantastic Beginners
Bean-a-rific Soups and Stews
Bean-a-licious Sides
Incredi-bean Main Meals
Amaze-beans Sweet Endings
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