I MADE A GORGEOUS CASSOULET this weekend from cannellini beans, duck leg quarters, sweet Italian sausage, and TONS of garlic. If you make it, it will knock your socks off. The stew emits a seductive scent as it simmers, and its rich, earthy taste is like warm sunshine on a cold autumn day:
Cassoulet de Kevin
Duck leg quarters, one per person
Sweet Italian sausage (two per person)
Half- to one-pound bacon, chopped (I used a whole pound!)
One pound dried cannellini beans
6-8 cloves (or more) of garlic, peeled and smashed
Mirepoix: 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and 1 onion finely diced
Fresh herbs: 3 stems each parsley and thyme, tied together with cotton string
Breadcrumb topping: 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs mixed with 2 cloves finely minced garlic and 3 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley
A heavy-bottomed, enameled pot that will hold at least 5 quarts; a lid for the pot; a large skillet
Preparing the beans – soak these overnight, or, if you are impatient (like me), quick-soak them this way: boil in 3 inches of water for exactly 2 minutes; cover and let rest for one hour, and poof — the beans are ready to use.
Browning the duck legs and sausages – Pour a glug of olive oil into a large skillet, set it over a low flame, and brown the duck legs and sausages. If your skillet is small, brown the meat in batches. Be sure to save the rendered fat — it will add great flavor to your stew.
Assembling – Pour half the beans on top of the bacon; add the duck legs and sausages, the garlic, the mire poix, the parsley and thyme, and finally the remaining beans. Then add enough water to just reach the top of the beans.
Initial cooking – 1 1/2- to 2-hours at 350 degrees. First, bring the pot to a rapid boil on the stovetop, then cover the pot, and immediately place it in your preheated oven. After 45 minutes check for evaporation; if the ingredients seem dry, add more water. (I did not have to add any additional water when I made this dish.) Initial cooking is complete when the beans are perfectly tender and the liquid has thickened.
Breadcrumb topping and final cooking – about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the pot from the oven, add the breadcrumb mixture, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
Serving – Using 2 long-handled spoons, pull out one duck leg quarter and one or two sausages for each serving. Place a heaping spoonful of beans topped with breadcrumbs either over the meat or beside it. Since cassoulet makes a complete meal all by itself, the only accompaniment you need is full-bodied red wine.
You can count on this cassoulet to warm your soul some cold winter evening. And you don’t have to call it Cassoulet de Kevin. Increase, decrease, or substitute the ingredients, and then call the dish something else. I think Cassoulet de YOU has a nice ring to it. No?
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