This week my partner decided to make a cassoulet –quite the undertaking as it requires a number of meats/ingredients and a fair bit of time. I played assistant and since we couldn’t find any duck confit (confit de canard), I contributed by making some –besides its an excuse to have duck readily available in our fridge!
The confit proved to be easy, no different then salt pork, cover the meat in herbs and salt, and let “marinate”, rub down again in 24 hours, then cook.
To cook and create the confit, I placed the legs skin side down in a cast iron pan over medium heat, a bit of olive oil added beforehand–the fat in the skin rendered and the skin browned over a few minutes. Then i turned them and continued to cook until each leg was entirely browned. Then transferred into a dish with the marinade and all the fat from cooking. the idea is to fit them snugly so the legs are mostly submerged in fat while in the oven. We were a bit short on fat so we added some lard (from our recent pig experiments). After a couple hours the meat begins to slide away from the bone– so, done.
To create the ‘preserve’ the legs are then placed in a jar or container (we used a 500ml mason jar) and the liquid fat is poured over so they are completely covered. Allowed to cool, the fat solidifies & lid screwed on, the jar can then be placed in the fridge where it will keep for months.
For us however, it was only in the fridge moments before some of the legs were retrieved for use in the cassoulet.
According to more then one of our cookbooks the inclusion of lamb, tomatoes, and bread crumbs are each considered either “essential or sacrilegious” depending on who you ask….Having acknowledged that it can be a contenscious dish wrapped up with all sorts of regional/identity politics, i none the less cant help but think of it as fancy (and delicious) baked beans–and that was more or less our approach–not to take it too seriously.
Based on advice from both Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Julia Child, here is what we came up with.
900g (white) beans soaked overnight
We replaced the bean’s water and filled the pot to just cover the beans. We brought it to a boil with a medium onion, 2 cloves garlic crushed, a Large bouquet garni, and some pork rind–we simmered it a couple hours (till beans were just tender)
Then our confit fry pan had some additional fat added (we left the scrapings from having fried the legs earlier) we further browned the duck- removed and set aside
We repeated this process with 5 “butchers” sausages, 1/5 kg of salt pork–that had already been soaked in cold water (changed regularly) several hours to desalinate it somewhat.
After all the meat was cooked and set aside we added another onion and 2 cloves garlic, all minced & cooked till soft.
The meat is cut into 1-2″ cubes and the duck removed from the bone.
In a Large casserole dish, a layer of 2/3rds of the beans is pressed into the dish, followed by meat nestled into the beans, then covered with the remainder (the sausages remain set aside).
We then sprinkled the beans with bread crumbs and trickled some fat overtop. every 1/2 hr we added more breadcrumbs and fat to create a crust. After 2 hours, the final layer of breadcrumbs was added and the sausages (sliced into 4-5 pieces each) were nestled atop the ‘crust’ It was returned to the oven for a half hour. Total cook time was 2 & 1/2 hours at 300F.
next experiment: Coq au vin