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Duck Cassoulet

Duck Cassoulet
Making cassoulet is a time-consuming process, although the results are well worth your efforts. Plan to prepare this dish over a two-day period, starting with soaking the beans overnight. Accompany with a full-bodied red wine.

Ingredients:

For the duck confit:

  • 4 duck legs, rinsed well and patted dry
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 to 8 whole peppercorns
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 to 4 cups canola oil, or as needed

For the beans:

  • 2 lb. dried Great Northern beans, picked over,
      rinsed and soaked in water for 12 to 24 hours
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 bay leaf, 4 fresh thyme sprigs and 4 fresh
      flat-leaf parsley sprigs tied together with
      kitchen string
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 whole cloves
  • Salt, to taste

For the cassoulet:

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lb. mild pork garlic sausage
  • 1 lb. duck sausage, or substitute pork sausage
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 quarts unsalted or low-sodium chicken broth,
      warmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

To make the duck confit, in a large saucepan or stockpot, arrange the duck legs, thyme sprigs, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns in a single layer. Season with salt and add enough oil to cover the duck legs by at least 1 inch. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture just to a simmer. Reduce the heat so the mixture just barely simmers. Continue cooking until the meat is very tender and falls off the bone, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove the pan from the heat and cool the duck legs to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the duck legs to a smaller container, add enough cooking oil to cover the duck and refrigerate until ready to use. The duck can be refrigerated in the fat up to 1 month.

To make the beans, in a 4-quart saucepan, combine the beans with the carrot, bay leaf and herbs, and garlic. Stick the onion with the cloves and add it to the beans. Add cold water to cover the beans by about 3 inches. Season with salt. Set the pan over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the beans are just tender but still a little firm, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove and discard the herb bundle and the onion. Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

To make the cassoulet, in a large, heavy-duty casserole dish or Dutch oven, combine the beans with the onion, pork sausage, duck sausage and the duck confit, reserving the fat from the confit (discard the aromatics). Stir in the tomatoes and add 6 cups of the chicken broth. Season lightly with salt and pepper and pour 1/4 cup of the reserved fat over the cassoulet. Set over medium heat, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, adding more stock as needed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Remove the casserole from the heat. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the sausages and the duck confit to a cutting board. Cut the pork sausage into 1/2-inch-thick slices and cut the duck sausage into 1-inch-thick slices. Cut the duck legs in half between the joints and remove and discard the skin. Scoop half of the beans out of the casserole into a bowl. Layer the sausages and the duck over the beans in the casserole, then top with the remaining beans. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour 1/4 cup of the reserved fat over the cassoulet and bake until the top has formed a crispy, golden crust, about 2 hours. If the cassoulet becomes dry while cooking, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Serve immediately.
Serves 8.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.