Perfect Cassoulet Recipe
A project worthy of your next long weekend.
Photo by Heami Lee
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: a couple days tbh
for the confit duck legs:
1/2 cup herbs de provence
9 tablespoons sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
6 duck legs and ribs
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups liquefied duck fat
1 bay leaf
for the cassoulet:
4 cups dry cannellini or tepary white beans
2 pork trotters
2 pounds pork skin
1/2 cup pork fatback
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup duck fat
6 confit duck legs and ribs, thigh bone removed
6 toulouse or other mild, uncooked pork sausages, cut in half
1 rack pork ribs, cut into single ribs
1. Confit the duck legs: In a small bowl, combine the herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Spread the spice mixture evenly over the duck legs and ribs. Rub the meat with the garlic. Cover, and let rest in the fridge for 2 days.
2. Heat the oven to 300°F. Add 1 tablespoon of duck fat to a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the duck legs and ribs until golden brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Place the duck in a small baking dish with high sides and cover with the remaining duck fat. Seal with foil and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat on the legs just begins to pull away from the bone when prodded with a fork. We are only cooking the legs about 2/3 of the way for this recipe. But, if you wanted to finish the confit, cook the legs for 1 hour more. Remove the foil and let cool completely in the fat, about 2 hours. Whether partially or fully confited, the duck will keep in the fridge, completely covered in the fat, for up to 3 weeks.
3. Make the cassoulet: In a stock pot large enough to hold the beans (as they expand by 20 percent during soaking), soak the beans in a LOT of water to cover (we did about 18 cups water!) for 6 hours, or until they stop expanding, checking to make sure they are submerged in water the whole time and adding more water as needed. Do not drain the beans.
4. While the beans are soaking, start the stock: Add the trotters and skin to a large stockpot with 26 cups water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 2 hours, or until the trotters are beginning to fall apart. Strain the stock, setting it aside, and pick the meat from the trotters, discarding the fat, bones, and skin. Reserve any picked trotter meat. You should have at least 12 cups stock.
5. Place the fatback and garlic in a food processor and pulse it into a paste. Transfer to an airtight container, season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
7. Bring the pot of beans and its soaking water to a boil over medium-high. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain, discarding the water. Transfer the beans to a heavy-bottom pot. Add the garlic-fatback paste and enough stock to just cover the beans (about 5 cups). Season with the sea salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the beans are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes, then turn off the heat. The beans should be just tender, but not fully cooked or falling apart. (Adding the salt at this stage prevents the beans from getting too creamy and falling apart later.) Now you are ready to build the cassoulet.
8. Heat the oven to 350°F. Rub the inside of a large casserole pot or high-sided ceramic baking dish with the duck fat and a thin film of olive oil. Add a scoop of beans and a ladleful of stock. Then layer in about one-third of the trotter meat, duck legs and ribs, sausage, and pork rib bones, distributing them north-south across the baking dish— this will make the cassoulet easier to serve at the table. Top the meat with another scoop of beans, enough stock to just cover the beans, and a second layer of meats. Add another scoop of beans, stock to cover, and the remainder of the meats. Top with the remaining beans and stock to not-quite cover, reserving about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of stock to add while the cassoulet cooks.
9. Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven with a baking sheet underneath to catch any liquid that bubbles over. Cook for 4 1/2 hours, ladling in stock every 30 minutes just to barely cover the beans. After each addition of stock, press down the crust with the back of a spoon. After a few hours of cooking, a crust will start to form on the top from the proteins that are starting to caramelize; just ladle stock over the crust and around the edges. The cassoulet is done when the tip of a knife can be inserted from crust to the bottom of the baking dish without any resistance. Let the cassoulet cool for 30 minutes before serving.
10. Finish the dish by grinding pepper over the top. Use a knife to cut through the crust and a large spoon to scoop it out, making sure each person gets a little bit of everything. Leftover cassoulet is amazing. When completely cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, gently warm, uncovered, at 300° for 20 to 30 minutes, until warmed through.