Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
I have seen cassoulet in my cookbooks and several blogs but never cooked nor tried it before. Thanks to Jenni and Lisa for choosing cassoulet and Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman's recipe for this month's Daring Cooks challenge, now I have and can say this is an amazingly delicious bean stew.
It was easy for me to decide to make this seemingly intimidating dish as I already have most of the ingredients such as duck legs confit, which I made last month following Michael Ruhlman's recipe, pork belly, pork rind, sausages (with thyme and sage), and herbs. The only ingredient I had to get from the store was the dried cannellini beans. Making the dish is a bit involved but it's all worth it. The beans absorbed all the flavors and fats from the meats and they tasted even better the next day.
5 cups dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or cannellini
2 pounds fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound pork rind
1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs each parsley and thyme and one bay leaf)
salt and pepper
¼ cup duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs
- Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, ¼ pound pork rind, and the bouquet garni. 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. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)
- Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.
- 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). Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining duck fat and purée until smooth. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF. Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive dish. You're looking to line the inside, almost like a pie crust. 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.
- Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup in the refrigerator for later use.
- Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF and cook for another hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to moderate 350ºF again. Cook the cassoulet for an hour. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Reduce the heat to very slow 250ºF and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through.