Some of the best things in life require the most time and effort to do them right. This recipe is one of those things.
Before you overlook this recipe because of the perceived complexity, just know that this could be one of the best things you will eat this winter. Cassoulet is a classic French dish of stewed beans and many types of slow cooked meat, traditionally duck, pork, and sausage. This dish is rich, luxurious, and well worth the effort.
Many stewed dishes eat better the day after they are cooked, as this allows the flavors time to blend and build and cassoulet is no exception to this general rule. This dish can be served on the second day of cooking, but to make the process less stressful and to improve the end result, the directions below explain how to serve on the third day.
This recipe works really well with wild game meats. Should you go this route, there are a couple things to be aware of. Because of their varied diet, wild game can sometimes accumulate off-putting flavors in their fat. For that reason, I recommend cooking and tasting a small amount of fat from the game meat you are going to use before using it in this recipe. Second, wild duck skin can be thick and rubbery when slow cooked in liquid. For a better eating experience, remove the skin from the legs after the confit process.
3 Duck Legs
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
3 Bay Leaves, slightly broken up
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
¼ Tsp Black Pepper, fresh ground
1 lb Duck Fat
2 Cups Dried Cannellini beans. If needed, substitute other beans that hold together well when cooked
½ White Onion, kept in 1 piece
1 Head Garlic, cut through the equator (see the pictures)
6oz Slab Bacon, whole
8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Bay leaf
½ tsp Black Pepper, ground
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Slices Sourdough
4 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Duck Fat, reserved from the confit
1 lb Pork Shoulder, diced
3 Fresh Pork Sausages
1 Onion, ¼” diced
1 Carrot, ¼” diced
5 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
3 fl oz Tomato Paste
14 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
5 Juniper Berries, crushed
4” Piece Garlic Sausage, sliced ¼” thick
3 Bay Leaves
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme Leaves
Black Pepper, ground
- Season the duck legs with salt, rosemary, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, and pepper and massage the aromatics into the meat for 30 seconds.
- Cover the duck legs and refrigerate for 12–24 hours. This cures the meat, imparts flavor, and tenderizes the meat.
- Over a low heat, melt the duck fat in a pot big enough to fit in all the duck legs.
- Meanwhile, rinse the duck legs under cold water to wash off the seasoning.
- Dry the legs and add them to the melted duck fat. The legs should be completely submerged, if not, add more fat to the pot.
- Cook the legs at 300 °F in the oven for 2–3 hours or until the bones can be easily pulled off the meat.
- Remove the legs from the fat, cover, and set aside.
- Reserve the fat and freeze it for future use. To do this, strain the hot fat through a fine mesh strainer while holding back the liquid at the bottom of the pot. Store covered in a clean container in the freezer for up to 12 months.
- In a large container, cover the beans with 3” of water and let them soak in a cool place overnight.
- Drain the water and combine all the ingredients together in a large pot.
- Cover the beans with 1” of water and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer the beans for 45 minutes or until they are tender and cooked through. Add more water if necessary to keep the beans covered while cooking.
- Strain the beans and reserve the bacon and cooking liquid.
- Rough chop the bacon into large bite-sized pieces.
- Tear the sourdough slices into bite-sized pieces and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle the bread with olive oil, season with salt and mix well.
- Bake the bread at 325 °F in an oven with a low fan until the croutons are golden on the outside and crisp throughout. This should take approximately 10–15 minutes.
- Once cool, rough chop the croutons into ¼ pieces.
- Heat the duck fat in a large pot over a high heat until it just begins to smoke.
- Add the diced pork shoulder to the pot and sear until browned on all sides, which should take approximately 5–8 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the pot and set aside.
- Add the sausages to the pot and brown on both sides.
- Remove the sausages and cut into 2” pieces. The sausage will still be raw in the middle but will cook through later in the recipe.
- Add the onion and carrot to the pot and sauté until the onions just start to brown.
- If at any time the bottom of the pot looks like it might burn, add 2 oz of water to the pot, scrape the brown bits off the bottom and continue the process.
- Add the garlic to the pot and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot.
- Add in the cooked beans, half of the bean cooking liquid, the chopped bacon, diced pork, sausages, and garlic sausage slices. The liquid should be just covering the ingredients in the cassoulet.
- Transfer the cassoulet to a large 3” deep baking dish and submerge the duck legs into the cassoulet as shown in the pictures.
- Bake the cassoulet at 325 °F in an oven with no fan for 2 ½ hours. The cassoulet should be gently bubbling the whole time. If it starts to reduce and exposes the ingredients, add a touch more bean liquid to the dish. Place a baking sheet under the baking dish to catch any dripping while baking.
- Check the cooking by testing the diced pork, it should fall apart tender. If not, continue to cook and check at 15 minute intervals.
- Once cooked, cool the cassoulet overnight.
- To finish, reheat the cassoulet at 325 °F in an oven with no fan until hot throughout, which should take approximately 45–60 minutes.
- Sprinkle the crouton crumbs over the top of the cassoulet and bake at 425 °F with a high fan until the croutons are nicely browned on top.
- You are now ready to reap what you sowed. Enjoy.