Friday, January 14, 2011

The Daring Cooks January 2011 Challenge:The French Hearty Winter Stew - Cassoulet

Hello! Hello! Remember me? I'm back after a long hiatus! What a wonderful challenge for me to start anew.
Knowing that the posting date is near, I thought i'd be able to join next month since i checked on the challenge two days ago . I guess i got lucky? i have all the ingredients ready for this challenge.

My daughter made 8 pcs. of duck confit a couple of months ago. I have all the proteins needed, pork belly and some Polish and spicy Italian sausages. For my beans, i had cranberry beans and baby lima beans in my pantry which i had to use inorder for me to be able to start right away.

Wow, the recipe was way too much for me and my husband. I have to divide the ingredients and i'm planning on making another batch but this time w/ tomatoes.

The verdict? yum!!! We love it! who wouldn't..Meat Galore!! What a perfect meal for a cold winter night! Thanks Lisa and Jenni!

This months challenge were hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives and the challenge is Cassoulet.

Cassoulet is a rich, slow cooked stew or casserole that originated in the south of France during the 14th century. It traditionally contains pork, sausages, and white beans as well as a duck or goose confit and then topped with fried bread crumbs or cracklings. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, which is a deep, round earthenware pot with slanted sides. This is a dish that traditionally takes about three days to prepare, but is oh so worth all the effort!! A confit, in case you don’t know, is one of the oldest ways to preserve food. It is essentially any kind of food that has been immersed in any kind of fat for both flavor and preservation. When stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months! Typically meats (most often waterfowl) are preserved in fats, while fruits are preserved in sugar.

Ingredients for Cassoulet

5 cups/1200 ml/1100 g/39 oz dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!) (I USED CRANBERRY BEANS AND BABY LIMA BEANS)

2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly

1 onion, cut into 4 pieces

1 pound/450 gm pork rind (OMITTED)

1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup/60 ml/55 gm duck fat


3 onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

4 confit duck legs (USED ONLY 2)


Day One

1.Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches (50mm or 75mm) of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight. That was hard, right? (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!)

Day Two

1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.

2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, and the bouquet garni.

3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.

4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.

5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)

6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.

7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon/15 ml/15 gm of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.

8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides

9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.

10. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic and the reserved squares of pork rind from the beans (not the unused pork rind; you'll need that later).

11. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon//15 ml/15 gm of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.

12. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4.

13. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers, beginning with a layer of beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck confit and finally more beans, adding a dab of the onion and pork rind purée between each layer.

14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup/240 ml in the refrigerator for later use.

15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and cook for another hour.

16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. (SKIP THIS AND CONTINUE THE 3RD DAY PROCESS.)


1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 again.

2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.

3. Break the crust (I USED PANKO BREAD CRUMBS) on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup/60 ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don't get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn't have to be pretty.)

4. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF/130ºC/gas mark ½ and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.


  1. Your breadcrumbs on top look sooo good! I hope you enjoyed the challenge as much as we did!

  2. Welcome back, and what a beautiful and absolutely perfect job you did on the cassoulet and confit. Mouth watering photos too! So glad you took part in our challenge and really enjoyed it!

  3. Welcome back friend. The simple fact you had all the ingredients on hand shows just how serious you take your cooking. I think this recipe is one that we both took the traditional route with. Sometimes the old way is best.

    Your cassoulet looks just beautiful.

  4. Welcome back to both of us Pia! Your cassoulet looks so delicious, I will make sure to use duck next time, I'm so jealous of your duck confit. Excellent job on this challenge!

  5. Hi, FAith! Thank you..i was debating between Italian breadcrumbs w/c are very fine and Panko breadcrumbs w/c were coarse. I figured panko will make a crispy toppings.

  6. Hi, Lisa! It feels good to be back. Thanks,..I love this challenge!

  7. Robert, Thank you! See, i thought my version was more of the "fusion" cassoulet. I had to work w/ what i had in hand for me to do the challenge just on time or not so late.

    My daughter brought home lots of duck confit from her culinary school. I actually wasn't sure if that confit was still okay coz i had them in the freezer. Learned that freezing duck confit is just perfect. I know, i made a short cut but what's the point of me making the confit when i have some ready.

    Now for the porkbelly...ya' know that and pigsfeet are staple in my freezer (that's the Filipino in me) lol!!! And the sausages those are some left overs from another dish hence the combination of Polish and Italian w/c worked out perfectly for this dish.

    And the beans..i was debating and took the chance coz i wasn't sure if the cranberry beans and lima beans would work..again it did!!!

    I still have a lot, will definitely make this again but w/ tomatoes this time. And maybe will make your sausage too!!

    Am i glad i'm back!!=;)

  8. Yes, welcome back to the two of us Dahlia=;) Oh, kudos to my daughter for the duck confit=;) You did a good job w/ this challenge as well!

  9. Great to see you back I was wondering what happened to you. Great to see that the recipe worked out so well for you. I love the photographs it looks so delicious. Don't worry about making an enormous amount at once it freezes superbly and tastes even better after storage I even made meatloaf with some of the leftovers it was stunning also. Certainly the best stew I have had.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  10. We recognized quite early that it would be more food than the 2 of us. We briefly considered having friends over, but we're glad we didn't - the leftovers were awesome.

    Stay JOLLY!

  11. Welcome back! We've missed you around the 'halls' of the DC's. Your cassoulet looks delish!

  12. So glad to have you back in DB! And even more glad to see this delicious dish, an obvious representation of your passion for good food :-)

  13. HI, David and Stacy...nah, no friends needed here as well. Surprisingly we finished the first bacth now i'm working on the second batch.

  14. Hello, Monkeyshines!! Thank you! I'm so glad i'm back...oh you'll see more of me aound the "hall" ones again! ha!ha!ha!

  15. Hi, Kris! Thank you=;) I'd say back at you. You're a complete "package", skilled cook and photographer. You're an inspiration, just an fyi.