Thursday, March 19, 2009


I have had Cassoulet maybe twice in my life and I never forgot about it. This weekend I was feeling adventurous and we also had 4 legs of duck confit in the freezer. Spring was in the air, so I decided to do a Cassoulet. Well, this was my first and last attempt. While everyone was taking advantage of the nice weather, I was inside slaving away in the kitchen, babysitting my chef d'oeuvre all day! I must say, it was rich and delicious, but soooooo time consuming to make.

This recipe is composed of bits and bites of what I found on the net and also suggestions from my friends at Ottawa Foodies and this is what came out. Looking at the pictures right now, they don't look appetizing..but trust me, it's pure comfort food.

Remember; "A recipe is merely words on paper; a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise. It cannot pretend to replace the practiced hand and telling glance of a watchful cook. Of course when you cook it once, it becomes yours, so personalize it a bit. Add more of an ingredient you like or less of something you don’t like. Try substituting one ingredient for another. Remember words have no flavour, you have to add your own!"
Chef Michael Smith

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Two 1/2-inch-thick slices of pancetta (4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 duck leg confit
2 to4 garlic sausages
2 thick slices of pork belly cut into small cubes
2 thick slices of bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onion sliced
1 pound dried flageolets or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over, soaked overnight in cold water
4 thyme sprigs
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
2 quarts water
1 quart chicken stock
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
a pinch of your best salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 325°

I used dried flageolets , also known as green kidney beans.
I have seen some recipes use white navy beans as well...


1-In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until the fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes.

2-Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.

3-Add the beans, herbs and bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, water and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring and skimming occasionally, until the beans are al dente, about 1 hour***Please note that for the type of beans I used, 1hr was not enough. In the end, the beans were not as tender as I would have liked them to be**

4-Discard the thyme sprigs. Drain the beans, reserve the cooking liquid and let cool to room temperature.

5-While the beans are cooking, Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a frying pan over medium heat. **I always keep a tub of duck fat in my freezer, you can freeze/defrost/freeze again many times without affecting the quality. If you don't have duck fat, use a mix of olive oil and butter**

When hot, add the fresh bacon and brown. Transfer to a plate. Prick the sausages several times with a fork and add them to the pan. Lower the heat to medium and brown the sausages on all sides. Transfer the sausages to a plate and cut each sausage into 4 pieces.

6-Chop the remaining onion, add to the pan with the browned bacon and cook over low heat until softened and sort of caramelized. Add the remaining garlic, the wine and bring to a boil. Deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes.

7- Stir the reduced tomato and onion mixture into the beans and season with salt and pepper, remembering that the confit will add some salt to the finished dish.

8-Put about half the bean mixture in a large Dutch oven or casserole. Now place the pieces of pork belly, and duck confit on top, making sure the different meats are well distributed. Cover the meats with the remaining bean mixture and push the sausage pieces into the top bean layer so they almost disappear into the beans. Pour in enough of the reserved cooking liquid to come up almost to the top of the beans.

(Reserved cooking liquid)

9- Bake, uncovered, for 3 to 4 hrs hours or until a golden crust has formed over the creamy textured beans. Also make sure the cassoulet is not becoming dry, adding more of the bean cooking liquid when necessary.

10-Serve the cassoulet straight from the dish, sprinkle some of the bread crumbs mix on top.

Garlic Crumb Topping

1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a baguette)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Prepare garlic-crumb topping while cassoulet finishes baking:
Cook garlic in oil in cleaned 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add bread crumbs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until crumbs are crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in parsley.
Serve cassoulet with crumb topping.

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