I think of Cassoulet as a gussied up version of pork and beans. If you are French, you may not agree with this. Sorry. Cassoulet is beans slow cooked with at least a couple types of pork and duck confit. The details are flexible. For the recipe presented here, this is the first time I’ve actually used duck confit. Usually I just substitute chicken or turkey drumsticks for the traditional confit–there’s typically plenty of fat from the many pork products. But if you’ve actually got duck confit, by all means, use it.
While I did use duck confit, this recipe does differ in a couple ways from a traditional cassoulet. First, I cooked it on the stovetop instead of in the oven–this is quicker but if you’ve got the time to cook it in the oven, nothing compares. Secondly, this recipe actually uses less meat overall than other recipes I’ve seen. I like to emphasize the contribution of beans and vegetables to the dish. By the way–and I’ve made chefs laugh by making this next statement–but you can make a nice vegetarian version using mock duck and fake sausage.
Now, there is one thing I will change about this recipe the next time I make it. I added the duck legs early on and mixed them in with everything else. I would recommend just placing a helping of duck confit on top of each dish as it is served. That way the confit is sure to stand out.
Cassoulet ~ 8 servings.
In a large pot, start simmering:
3 c. dried white beans, such as flageolet, Great Northern or baby Lima, pre-soaked
2 qts. low-sodium chicken broth
Meanwhile, sweat off over medium heat:
2 large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
3 medium parsnips, sliced
When the vegetables have browned slightly, add:
2 T. garlic
Saute a few minutes more, then add the vegetables to the simmering beans. Along with:
1 T. thyme
Simmer until the beans are tender, then add:
1 1/2 lb. smoked ham shank, or 1 lb. high-quality ham
1/2 lb. cooked sausage
3 T. tomato paste
Wait until the beans are tender to add these ingredients because salt and acidity slow the rehydration of the beans. That’s also why I used low-sodium chicken broth. As it warms, the ham shank will fall off the bone.
Simmer a while longer, until all the flavors have melded together. Salt & pepper to taste. Serve with duck confit.