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Cassoulet?

Does anyone have experience making cassoulet?
I have a fresh duck and want to 'change things up a bit for my contribution to Christmas diner.
Never made it before. Any tips are gratefully appreciated. Yes I can 'Google' all kinds of info but someone actually sharing their experience where I can ask questions is what makes CH such a great site.

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  1. Cassoulet is at least a three day preparation dish, so you had best get to work now!

    For a traditional cassoulet, I highly recommend Master the Art, book 1. You will start by confuting the duck legs, and making toulouse sausage. The next step is creating the lamb stew. Meanwhile your beans should be soaking. At long last you combine, and then cook for a very long time, stirring every once in a while to get that characteristic crust.

    Good luck! And happy, happy eating. This is one of my favorite "over-the-top" meals.

    3 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      I, too, have a fondness for the recipe in Mastering the Art, probably because it was the first cassoulet I ever tried to make. But you'll need to go elsewhere to find a recipe to make the confit and one duck is unlikely to yield enough fat to do it the traditional way. Michael Ruhlman has a recipe for poaching the duck legs in olive oil ( http://ruhlman.com/2009/03/duck-confi... ), Sally Schneider has one for poaching them in foil in their own fat ( A Quick(Ish) Duck Confit ), and Melissa Clark has one that doesn’t require quarts of duck fat, either ( http://food52.com/blog/2893-melissa-c... ).

      Any of these three recipes will allow you make the confit in far less time with far less fat than the traditional recipes.

      1. re: JoanN

        I make a very large batch every Fall, after Thanksgiving. I claim all of the remaining dark meat from the Thanksgiving turkey. I combine it with Italian sausage and Linguica, two kinds of beans, etc, etc. The dark turkey does what low fat duck would do, if it existed.

        1. re: trail 6

          the actual duck meat is very lean -- and what fat it does have is very high in oleic acid, making it one of the healthier animal fats available.

    2. I've made Cassoulet, and am making it for Christmas Dinner. The only parts of the duck that traditionally goes into Cassoulet are the confit legs. In order to confit your legs, you would have had to start last week.

      Other ducky items in the dish are a couple of different sausages. The tarbais beans need to be soaked overnight and then cooked with ventreche/bacon before assembling the dish. I chose it because I can do most of it ahead, and then put it in the oven for the long baking period on Wednesday morning. Besides, it feeds an army. If you are still interested and have questions, I think my email addy is on my info page here.

      Imho, the definitive recipe is in Paula Wolfert's book, "The Cooking of Southwest France." She learned to make it from the master, Andre Daguin.

      1. I made a cassoulet about a week ago, but I made it in one day.

        I used a recipe in a book called The French Slow Cooker and made it in (duh) my slow cooker. It was remarkably good and required none of the multi-day prep, provided that you buy prepared duck confit. It had incredible flavor and my guests raved.

        1 Reply
        1. re: loratliff

          French people make Cassoulet in a day and laugh at it taking 3-5 days to complete.

          1. I love Cassoulet and make it often. I've done the long versions… even the Paula Wolfort one, which I spread over 5 days, even using pork skin to line the pot. It was wonderful. But a friend of mine who is an excellent cook devised a 'quick fire' cassoulet I love. It's a great weeknight dish and would be perfect for your duck. It's a throw things together dish. Here you go:

            QUICK FIRE CASSOULET

            If you have time, marinate chicken legs/thighs and/or duck or pork chops overnight in salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and thyme/rosemary (or whatever you have.)

            Bring to room temp. Sear them on each side until crispy, then remove from pan.

            Next add chopped bacon and onions, chopped celery and carrots, garlic, and some chopped fennel if you have it.

            Caramelize these very well, a good long time. Deglaze with a shot of whiskey (of course) then add stock, 2-3 cans of white beans, bring to simmer, adjust seasoning.

            Add back chicken legs, pork chops and some sausages, partially submerged in your beans. Throw in oven until chicken is cooked through.

            I usually remove chicken from pan, top with Panko/Parmesan/parsley then broil until browned, then hit it with some more parsley.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Tom P

              I'm just finishing it now. Wonderful flavors!
              I'm adding the duck just near the end to be the top layer.
              I used 'Harvey's Bristol Cream' instead of whiskey.
              I had some chinese pork belly so I used it.
              Thanks and Merry Christmas to all CHers.

              1. re: Tom P

                Tom, do you mean you put the chicken in the broiler with the PPP, or the pan sans chicken?

                I haven't had cassoulet since I spent a night in the Grand Hotel de la Opera Tolouse.

                1. re: MsDiPesto

                  I guess that is what my friend meant when he wrote out the recipe. I myself don't remove it.. though I don't always broil it either. It usually is pretty great already! I'd stick the whole thing in together.

              2. Back in the late seventies when I was working in French restaurants Chef Jean Jacques Rachou made the best cassoulet in NYC @ his restaurants Le Lavandu and Le Cote Basque.
                http://tastyplanner.com/recipes/jean-...

                1. Thanks for sowing the seed to make this dish again. I simply love it, and think it might be a great dish to make between Christmas and New Year's.

                  I love this older thread on Cassoulet. A number of different versions are discussed.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/482415
                  Happy Holidays!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Some here may call me a 'heretic'. I was inspired to make a cassolet b/c of AB's Les Halles' cook book.
                    I ran out of time b/c the day before Christmas I roasted a fresh duck then carved it thinking I'd just take a platter of duck slices/bits to the last nights dinner.
                    A week ago I was going to make the casselot but decided not to b/c I'm lazy. So I had already bought the 'sort of' basic ingredients. Anyway. This is my 'Lightning Cassolet' recipe....which everyone raved about last night and devoured. Not one of the twenty guests had ever tasted a cassolet, including me. Maybe that's why LOL. Most had never tasted duck.
                    Put a frozen pack of small pork sausages in a T of duck fat and some water lid on to thaw/cook till brown.
                    Into the dutch oven:
                    Medium heat
                    3 T duck fat
                    1 1/2 cups of chinese BBQ pork belly cut into about 1/2" chunks
                    1 large sweet onion rough chopped
                    3 large carrots rough chopped
                    2 large rough chopped celery sticks
                    2 fine chopped garlic cloves
                    1 each T of fresh thyme and rosemary fine chopped.
                    A splash of Harveys Bristol Cream
                    Slow sauteed until veg was el dente.
                    4 tins of well drained white navy beans.
                    Added enough duck broth (made from the carcass) to just cover.
                    S&P
                    Incorporated the browned pork sausages and more broth to just cover.
                    Laid the pieces of duck on top and gently pushed them
                    down into the almost dry looking other ingredients so the guests could still see the duck pieces. There was enough liquid below to make a nice consistency. Stewy but not soupy. With a cupboard full of just about every bottle and can available I resisted the temptation to add 'just a touch of Tabasco' or a few drops of fish sauce. Less is more right?
                    Simmered lid on for an hour.
                    Took to the dinner and kept at low heat until dinner time.
                    The smell was amazing.
                    I hope every CHer had a wonderful Christmas.

                    1. re: Puffin3

                      if everyone enjoyed it, and it didn't cost you an arm and a leg and a week of time -- success!

                      French mamis didn't take 5 days to make cassoulet -- it was an all-day simmer because they were doing other things!

                  2. I occassionaly make cassoulet, but have never actually included confit of duck legs. I just use sausage and chicken thighs. If it's not authentic, sue me.

                    1. When I was a young cook working in French restaurants I was frequently responsible for the "family meal". This is the meal given free of charge to the employees before both lunch and dinner service. Two rules applied: don't spend too much time or money preparing this meal.One restaurant where I worked had a staff of mostly French born or at least French speaking employees (the dishwashers and bus boys were Haitian). I used to make a mock cassoulet with white beans and inexpensive and leftover meat. Chicen legs, pork shoulder, kielbasi were the mainstays As long as it had that nice breadcrumb topping they loved it! It doesn't have to be an expensive time consuming production.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: zackly

                        in today's France, it's a Saturday dish, as there's not time during the week, but it's still made and enjoyed in a single day.

                        (to be brutally honest -- it usually comes out of a can or a big glass jar -- the preprepared stuff can be delicious, and frequently eaten as a quick heat-up on busy weeknights)

                        1. I am very fond of the recipe in MTAOFC but it seems to me to be a concept that lends itself to a lot of variations. I like to make it when I have leftovers of a couple of kinds of roasts. To me the only part that never changes is tending to the crust.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: tim irvine

                            Next time I will 'do a crust'. The one ingredient I forgot to mention was a T of fennel seeds at the veg. sauté stage.
                            I can't yet put my finger on it but there were some delicious smells in there somewhere. It's my 'new favorite'.

                            1. re: Puffin3

                              I am totally with you on the fennel seeds. Try toasted crushed fennel seeds and grated nutmeg in a Bolognese. Mmmm

                              1. re: Puffin3

                                I'm glad you liked it, but I'm not seeing fennel in cassoulet.

                                I *do* put it in my pasta sauce, though.

                            2. I cook the beans until just tender, then put them in the pot with whatever the meats are (except for any sausages) and cut-up tomato, then do a slow 275º braise, usually overnight. In the morning I remove the meats, debone and trim them and cut any big pieces into big bite-size, layer everything back in with browned sausages, and bake at 350º. This year I was bringing it to a potluck with several Jewish attendees, so my principle meats were lamb shoulder and duck legs (not confited due to lack of time). I made two pots, one with saucisse de Toulouse and one without and made a stand-up sign explaining which was which. I thought it was delicious (and the leftovers just got better with every reheating), and had some very pleasing compliments. The beans I prefer are Mayocobas, a South American variety with a lovely silky texture and rich flavor. I looked at Tarbais beans and they're insanely expensive, so I was intending to just get canellini until I saw the Mayocobas.

                              6 Replies
                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Tarbais are gorgeously silky -- but yeah -- it's hard to justify the cost. Even in France, IN the Tarbais region, they're a treat, not a staple.

                                  (but highly recommended if you find a bargain)

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I also use mayocoba beans and think they offer the perfect mild, creamy texture for all the rich meat.

                                    I use prepared duck confit, chicken thigh and a pork sausage. I don't use lamb anymore. I also sauté everything with duck fat and like a nice crunchy topping.

                                    Wow....after this thread, cassoulet will have to make an appearance soon!

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Cassoulet is closely related to Cholent and Dafina, and there are certainly authentic kosher (and halal) versions. I have no idea whether I can find the Mayacobas for a reasonable price here (in Montréal). Except for one time when I brought Tarbais beans back from France, I've always used cannellini.

                                      1. re: lagatta

                                        Mayacoba (also called Peruanos, 'peruvians') is a light yellow bean, that is quite popular in Mexico (even though we usually think of the pinto as the Tex-Mex bean). It's not as well known in the USA, in part because a grower tried to claim some sort of patent ownership. I don't know if that affected sales in Canada.

                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                        I also use the Mayocobas. They cost $4/pound here in Minnesota, but I have been making annual winter trips to Arizona the last few years and found a place where we can get them for $1.49/pound and sometimes on sale for .99¢.

                                      3. Check out using fava beans, Cassoulet de Féves, which was the original way.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                          Obviously, as America hadn't been "discovered". Do you have a recipe for the pre-contact recipe, which I've never made nor eaten?

                                          1. re: law_doc89

                                            Do you use fresh fava beans? Between the cost and the work of peeling them, I can't imagine making a casserole with them.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              To be honest, I use frozen fava beans w/o noticing any diminution. One nice thing is that due to long cooking, they don't have to be peeled, and they maintain their distinct flavor; great stew bean!