Monday, February 21, 2011

TB's Cassoulet

Ingredients for duck confit:
4 duck legs
sea salt
2 cups
black pepper
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove

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Ingredients for cassoulet:
5 cups (1100 g) Tarbais beans or white beans
2 pounds (900 g) fresh pork belly
1 onion, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound (450 g) pork rind
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
1/4 cup (56 g) duck fat
6 pork sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
4 confit duck legs

Preparing the duck confit, Day One:
Rub the duck legs fairly generously with sea salt, place in the shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. At all times, keep your work area clean and your ingredients free of contamination - meaning don't allow any other food, like bread crumbs or scraps, to get into your duck, duck fat or confit, as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

Preparing the duck confit, Day Two:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear. After seasoning with the black pepper (not too much), place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole. Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with it, and pour the duck fat over the legs to just cover. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for about an hour, or until the skin at the "ankle" of each leg pulls away from the "knuckle." The meat should be tender.

Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess. The former is recommended. A nice touch at this point is to twist out the thighbone from the cold confit. Just place one hand on the drumstick, pinioning the leg to the table, and with the other hand, twist out the thighbone, plucking it from the flesh without mangling the thigh meat.

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Preparing the cassoulet, Day One:
Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight.

Preparing the cassoulet, Day Two:
Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/112 g of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni. Cover with water, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about an hour. 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 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 350 degrees F. Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof earthenware 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 250 degrees F and cook for another hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Preparing the cassoulet, Day Three:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F again.

Cook the cassoulet for an hour. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. (Don't get fancy. Just pile, dab, stack and pile. It doesn't have to be pretty.) Reduce the heat to 250 degrees F and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until hot through and through.

Serves 4


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