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.