Cassoulet has been mentioned a few times on this site, but I couldn’t tell you for sure whether I’d ever consumed it in my first 32 years. Pop Ryan loved it, Mommy Ryan claims to have cooked it, but I have zero recollection of consuming it before our Chicago trip in September. That meal at Maude’s was awesome, but I knew it wasn’t the authentic cassoulet that someone in the french countryside would cook over several days.
After researching a bit, I discovered that this dish is the equivalent of a French kitchen sink chili, so of course I was intrigued. I also loved the sound of duck, pork, and sausage in one rich pile of food.
An authentic Cassoulet is a multi-day process that includes over 25 ingredients, so I’m going to break this up into a couple of posts. I learned my lesson from the Turducken last year; too many images slow the site to a crawl and make the whole posting process utterly infuriating. Not so coincidentally, the plan was to serve it at the same annual holiday dinner with friends that featured the Turducken last year
I wanted to approach this in a way that wasn’t too far removed from what might happen in a French countryside kitchen (read: make everything as difficult as possible for no good reason). So, I decided to avoid pre-prepared ingredients like chicken stock, sausage, and duck confit. Do it all myself. I’m a freaking moron.
The process started with a thawed duck carcass I’ve had in my freezer for awhile.
After heavily seasoning the bones, meat, and skin with salt and pepper, I heated a stock pot on the stovetop with a little olive oil in the bottom. Once the oil was hot, I threw the duck in to brown for a few minutes. While the meat browned, I chopped up the standard carrot, celery and onion and smashed a few garlic cloves leaving them in the skin. Everything went into the pot.
Since I had a good 6 hours to cook the broth and get good flavor out of all of the ingredients, I filled the pot to near full and set to a low simmer.
While the broth simmered (yes Tim, you friggin jerk, I aimed to have one bubble every 30 seconds or so), I got started on preparing the duck legs for the confit process. Discovering that I could get these at the Shaws next to my office was a wonderful revelation.
I referenced a few sources on how to confit, including old standbys Ruhlman and Lagasse, before generally following the cure recipe from Ruhlman since he has yet to steer me wrong. The legs were rinsed, patted dry, given a heavy rub of salt and left to rest for 15 minutes.
While the legs rested, I prepared the other items for the cure.
The clove of garlic was sliced thin and the pile of “brown crap” is a few peppercorns and whole cloves chopped/crushed together. Pair that with some fresh bay leaves sliced into slivers.
The duck thighs were tightly wrapped in plastic and headed into the fridge.
After a 3-4 more hours of occasional stirring and maintaining low heat the stock was looking pretty good.
I shut the heat off of the stock and put the lid on to let it slowly cool overnight. Final step before I went to bed was covering two pounds of dried cannellini beans with water for an overnight soak.
And with that I headed to bed for a night of nervousness about everything flying off the rails on Saturday. On the docket for the next post, hopefully in the next few days, is the first day of cooking the pork and beans together, grinding a toulouse-style sausage, and confit-ing the duck.