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Cassoulet that won't take 3 days to make ...

A fast cassoulet is an oximoron of the greatest degree. There is really no such thing but this is a close facsimile. However, if you are like me, and crave confit of duck leg in it, then it will take a couple of days.

Cassoulet is essentially a French stew and can be made with the meats, beans and lentils on hand. Pork, duck and lamb give it the best flavour but substituting beef for one of these is entirely acceptable.

Unlike a typical stew where everything is thrown into the pot and cooked at the same time a good cassoulet will have the ingredients cooked separately and then mixed together for the final baking.

I am cooking for myself and as a result my recipes often only feed one or two persons. Four at most. I only like to eat leftovers once and I have a decided dislike for most frozen food.

A problem for those who rarely cook with duck or do not live in a large city is the lack of extra duck fat to make the confit. If you are starting with a whole duck it isn't such a problem. The fat from the rest of the duck can be rendered out to use it here. I have a blog post that describes how to render duck fat by clicking on this link How to Render Duck Fat.

Another mild tasting oil can be used in the place of duck fat to make the confit. Canola oil is one option or a mild olive oil.

If making duck confit isn't appealing, then simply sear a duck breast, dice and add to the dish instead.

And if you are not using duck at all, then please use bacon and the rendered fat. Pork belly is delicious. This dish needs some flavourful fat.

And your next question may be, "What do I serve with cassoulet?" Traditionally, nothing is served 'with' cassoulet. You may begin the meal with a crisp salad and of course, a light dessert to finish.

Sarah's Cassoulet
Serves 4.

1 duck breast or confit leg
2 lamb sausages
1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cubed
1/2 c. navy beans
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. French green lentils
1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 c. dry vermouth
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. beef, chicken or duck stock
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

To Make the Duck Confit

 kosher salt
1 cloves garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
1 sprigs thyme
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 duck legs with thighs
About 1 cups duck fat

Sprinkle salt in the bottom of a dish or plastic container large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots, and thyme in the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the salt mixture, then sprinkle with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots, and thyme and a little pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Melt the duck fat in a small saucepan. Brush the salt and seasonings off the duck. Arrange the duck pieces in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or ovenproof saucepan. Pour the melted fat over the duck. The duck pieces should be covered by fat. Place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit slowly at a very slow simmer — just an occasional bubble — until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2-3 hours. Remove the confit from the oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat. The confit will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Note: The duck fat can be strained and reused.
To Make the Beans

Soak the beans overnight in cold water (soaking is optional, but makes the texture creamier and the cooking time shorter). Drain, rinse again, and put in a large saucepan or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch (more, if you didn’t soak them). Add the onion, thyme, rosemary, savory (if using), bay leaf, chile, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, adjusting the heat as needed to achieve a gentle bubbling. Cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender but still hold their shape. Depending on the variety and freshness of your beans, this could take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, so check frequently, adding more water if the beans get dry. Remove from the heat and let cool in the liquid.

To Put it Together

Begin by adding the cooked navy beans to a baking dish large enough to hold everything else. In this case, I used a baking dish that was about one quart volume.

In a pan over medium high heat place the confit duck leg skin side down. Sear until the skin is crisp and any fat is rendered out. Turn it over and brown the other side, too. Remove to a cutting board. Don't clean the pan. Remove the bones and roughly chop the meat and skin. Add to the baking dish.
Next add the cubed beef. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper before cooking. Don't crowd the pan. Saute until browned and add to the baking dish. Don't clean the pan. And then brown the lamb sausage in the same way. Add to baking dish.

 Saute onions in the same pan. Add to the baking dish. Don't clean the pan.

Deglaze the pan with the dry vermouth. Add tomato paste and the rest of the cooking water from the beans. Add this to the baking dish.

 Stir in French green lentils. Add water to almost cover.

Toss the breadcrumbs with parsley and spread over the top of the food. Put the lid on the baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and let the breadcrumbs become crusty, about 15 minutes.
Stir the crusty breadcrumb mixture into the cassoulet and add water if it is dry. Put it back in the oven and bake until the beef and lentils are tender and once again crusty on top.


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