Cassoulet Des Pyrenees

This spicy variation makes a luscious fall-to-spring season stew that is best served straight from a cooking dish placed on the table. This dish is not for the faint of heart. You’ll need to start cooking early—the day before your feast, and you must allow several hours of cooking time on the feast day itself. The dried beans should be soaked to soften them before cooking. Use the quick method outlined below, or the night before your first cooking day, place the beans in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain and discard the soaking water.

Palate cleanser: One quarter to 1¼-ounce of cellar temperature Château de Briat 1986 Baron de Pichon-Longueville Bas Armagnac.

Wine recommendation: Cellar temperature Château Peyros 2000 Madiran.

  • 2 confit of Muscovy or Pekin duck legs
  • 4 pounds dried cannellini beans
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds Spanish onions, diced
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 2 quarts unsalted chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 pounds pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled/whole
  • 6 carrots, cut into 1¼-inch rounds
  • 6 celery hearts, diced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 ounce whole morel mushrooms
  • 1¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

The day before your cassoulet feast, remove the duck confit from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature so that the fat separates easily from the meat.

Meanwhile, if you have not soaked your beans overnight already, place them into a large bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover. Let them soak for at least an hour until they have absorbed the bulk of the water and doubled in size. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Set aside.

Using a wooden spoon, separate the softened confit duck legs from the fat that surrounds them and spoon the fat into a 4-quart Dutch oven, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the fat for later. Cover and return the duck legs and reserved duck fat to the refrigerator. Then, set the Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and Spanish onions and sauté, shaking the pan and stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Pour in the chicken stock. Add the cubed pancetta, garlic cloves, carrots, celery and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 90 minutes until the vegetables are softened, making a ragout. Add the drained beans. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Remove from the heat and let cool. Skim the fat from the surface, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, remove the vegetable ragout and duck confit from the refrigerator and let stand for 1 hour.

Place the duck confit into the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and heat for 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Pull the meat off the bone and cut into chunks and strips.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 4-quart casserole dish with the reserved duck fat or olive oil. Transfer the ragout to a baking dish that can double as a serving dish. Add the duck meat, chorizo sausage and morels. Stir to distribute the ingredients. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the cassoulet from the oven and remove the foil cover. Skim any excess fat from the surface. Stir in the parsley. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and return the cassoulet to the oven; bake for 1¼ – 2 hours. A crust will form on top.

Remove the cassoulet from the oven, let it stand for 10 minutes, and serve in dinner bowls.

Published on July 6, 2010