Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I like to think that this is my signature dish. I don't remember having this as a child and my mum has never attempted it (its far to unhealthy for Maman!) although she has had mine and is very complementary of it. The first time I made it for my parents they were about to leave for a trip to France for one of my many cousins weddings, Papa told all his brothers (he has 6 brothers, 5 sisters!) that I had attempted the cassoulet and achieved success ... after such compliment I couldn't help but to endevour to improve it!

Ingredients for a Cassoulet for 6 people
6 duck or rabbit legs
1 litre (about 2 jars) of Goose fat or Duck fat
600g of pork belly
12 toulouse sausages
1 large onion
1 bouquet garni 
6 cloves of garlic
1 bottle of white wine (optional)
Couple of carrots and celery sticks
4 large tins or 8 little tins of Flageolet beans(aprox) or 250 grams of dried Flageolet beans
Any dried pork scraps you may have stock piled!
I sometimes add confit pig cheeks, confit gessier, left over rilletts, terrine or saussison!

Day 1
If you are using dried Flageolet you need to soak them or 24 hours (or at least over night!)
Confit you Duck or Rabbit legs by placing them in a roasting tray and rubbing big salt generously all over them. Add rosemary twigs garlic cloves to the tray and then pour over melted fat until the legs are covered. Cover the tray with foil and place in an oven of about 200c for about 2.5 hours. Remove from the oven and check that the flesh and skin has come away from the bone. Allow to cool before storing in the fridge for the next day.
If you are going to the trouble of confiting for you cassoulet i always think its worth doing a couple more legs as they keep in the fat for at least a week or two. You could shred them and make a duck, orange and chicory salad or even attempt rillettes! You could just reheat in the oven for 20 minutes and serve with celeriac mash and red cabbage.

Day 2 
Put together your stock pot of white wine, water, carrots, celery, bouquet garni & halved onion.
If you are using dried beans them drain them and add them to you pot once its been brought to the boil and add your pork belly (you can cut this into strips about 2cm thick before popping in the pot).

The beans need about 1.5 to 2 hours (they should be over cooked to normal standards but still hold their shape).

Whilst this is going on you need to brown your toulouse sausages in some of the fat from the confit tray and set aside for later. You don't have to cook through the sausages as they will cook through in the dish in the oven later.

Once the pork has been in the stock pot about 45 minutes scoop it out and set aside to cool down. Trim off the skin and layer of fat from the topside of the belly, cut into cubes and set aside for later.

Once the beans are done drain them but keep the stock and set aside. You can discard the bouquet, carrot and celery but keep the onion

Pull your confit legs out of the fat. The skin and flesh should have come away from the bone, hold the bone and gently twist it until it comes free of the internal knuckle.
If you can find the cloves of garlic in the fat pull them out too and with a heaped tablespoon of the fat pop into the magimix or blender along with the onion from the stock pot.

If you are using tinned beans make sure they are well drained and rinsed.

You now have to fry those little cubes of fat  in another spoon of fat from the confit tray. This is a horrid job and I find the best thing to do is keep the heat down and pop a lid on top of the frying pan. Add these to the blender after about 10 minutes and wizz up the fatty oniony mess!

Now you can build your cassoulet... and get fat all over yourself!
Coat the inside of your oven dish with the wizzed up oniony fat. A layer of beans at the bottom of the dish followed by a spoon full of the onion fat on top of which the toulouse sausages then fat then beans then fat then the strips of pork belly and any scraps of pork products you have knocking about then fat then beans then fat then you confit duck or rabbit legs. 
Pour in some of the stock that you set aside earlier into the the dish but don't cover the legs ... you should only just see the stock under the last layer of beans. 
Cover the dish and place in the oven at 300c for 1 hour then turn down the oven to 180c for another 2 hours. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

Day 3
Preheat the oven to 200c. Reheat your cassoulet for 1 hour until violently bubbling and serve with bread and a green salad on the side.

This dish does take a while to prepare and is a very messy fatty dish to prepare but is worth it and if you confit extra legs you have another meal or so almost ready to go. 
It is perfect for dinner parties as you have only to reheat on the night and enjoy your guests company.
There are cheats... like buying ready confited duck legs so adapt it your self however be aware that the amount of love and fat that goes into will show through in the end product!

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