Cassoulet is a hearty winter dish which was originally created by poor farmers or peasants in southwest France. Only god knows what the rich and royal were eating if this is what the peasants ate cause this is very rich! There are different types of cassoulets in France depending on the region you live. Some cassoulets made in mountainous areas might have lamb as their main meat, others close to the sea would have fish and the most famous cassoulet is made with duck but no matter, they all used the Tarbais bean (pronounced Taar Bay) as a main ingredient to make this famous dish. To find out more about my experience on growing Tarbais beans go here. I made cassoulet with duck and my Tarbais (cassoulet) beans that I grew.
Cassoulet is slow cooked in a ceramic dish called a cassole which is a basically a covered ceramic casserole dish that can go in the oven. It traditionally is made with sausages, pork, duck confit and Tarbais beans-not for the faint of heart and I mean that literally!
So on with making a cassoulet with duck. Don’t be in a hurry cause it takes several days to make this dish-yes I said days—like as in 3 days!
First, Whole Foods ran out of duck confit, so I had to go online and learn how to make it myself which was a blessing as duck confit is very expensive and evidently not as good if you don’t make it yourself. There are many recipes on the internet but here is the recipe for both the Duck Confit and Cassoulet that I use from: Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman as presented by ‘The Daring Kitchen’: http://thedaringkitchen.com/recipe/confit-cassoulet . Here is their recipe as a pdf – Confit_Cassoulet_Jan_2011 which is helpful to print out as your computer will run out of juice before you can finish making the recipe in 3 days!
I wouldn’t want to go to all this effort all the time but once a year in the winter is great. Plus I did not line the ceramic pot with pork rinds-just seemed like overkill to me (literally). Now don’t worry they also have several different versions of cassoulets at the link above for the more heart healthy conscious (like chicken confit in olive oil and vegetarian cassoulet) but I thought I’d try an original version once! Next time I will exchange the pork with smoked turkey necks (which taste like smoked pork) and the different pork sausages with turkey sausage versions as it has sooo much fat.
What was once a poor man’s dinner is now very expensive but oh so good. I like to eat this hearty winter dish on a cold winter’s night with a glass of red wine by the fireplace. I think the red wine cuts the fat, or least that’s what I tell myself!