Friday, January 14, 2011


This month's Daring challenge was to cook a traditional french cassoulet. Immediately after reviewing the instructions I was excited about completing the challenge! I decided that I would make it for our New Year's Eve dinner.

The challenge as usual offered several delicious looking options but after reading over the ingredients I knew which one I had to choose.

I had to choose the most difficult and time intensive recipe. The Anthony Bourdain recipe. What can I say I'm not intimidated by little things like a five day total process!

The process was supposed to be spread out over five days but but immediately things started working against me. The original plan had been to go to the store the Sunday before New Years so that I could do the duck confit early. That would make the process even simpler. Well the hubby and I were sick and just couldn't drag ourselves to the local Whole Foods that weekend so I was forced to cut a few corners and cram it all in three days.

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman. Cassoulet by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman (as featured on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”)

Serves 6 - 8

First we had to start by preparing the Duck Confit:

Ingredients for Duck Confit

4 whole duck legs (leg and thigh), size does not matter

sea salt, for the overnight (at least 6-8 hours) dry rub (the amount varies depending on the size of your legs, so just know that you need to have enough on hand for a good coating.)

2 cups/480 ml/450 gm/16 oz duck fat

a healthy pinch or grind of black pepper

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

1 garlic clove

Day One

1.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 as they will make an otherwise nearly non-perishable preparation suddenly perishable.

Day Two

1.Preheat the oven to 375ºF

2.Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear. (I used bacon fat but clarified butter is also an acceptable substitute)

3.After seasoning with the black pepper, place the duck legs in the clean, ovenproof casserole.

4.Nestle the thyme, rosemary and garlic in with the duck legs, and pour the melted duck fat over the legs to just cover.

5. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for at least an hour, or until the skin at the "ankle" of each leg pulls away from the "knuckle." The meat should be tender.

6. 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. 

Ingredients for Cassoulet

5 cups dried Tarbais beans or white beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (if you use canned beans be aware that you will need double this amount!)

2 pounds/900 gm fresh pork belly (I did not use the pork belly. I have used it in the past and didn't like working with it so I just used a pork roast)

1 onion, cut into 4 pieces

1 pound/450 gm pork rind (I didn't do this either - even the instructions said it didn't add to the flavor)

1 bouquet garni (tie together two sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme and one bay leaf)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup duck fat

6 pork sausages

3 onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

4 confit duck legs

Day One

1.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. (Beans will double in size upon soaking, so use a big bowl!) This is one of the corners that I cut. I used canned beans.

Day Two

1. Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot.

2. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, 1/4 pound/115 gm of the pork rind, and the bouquet garni.

3. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes more.

4. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.

5. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch/5-cm squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.)

6. Strain the beans and the rind and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.

7. In the sauté pan, heat all but 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.

8. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.

9. Remove sausages and set aside, draining on paper towels.

10. 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).

11. 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.

12. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

13.Place the uncooked pork rind in the bottom of a deep ovenproof non-reactive 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.

14. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving 1 cup in the refrigerator for later use.

15. Cook the cassoulet in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to a very low 250ºF and cook for another hour.

16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Three

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF again.

2. Cook the cassoulet for an hour.

3. Break the crust on the top with the spoon and add 1/4 cup ml of the reserved cooking liquid. (I ended up not using my reserved liquid...the pan I used was filled to the very top as it was)

4. Reduce the heat to a very low 250ºF and continue cooking another 15 minutes, or until screamingly hot through and through. Then serve.

I cut the recipe in half and it still made a ton of food!


  1. I'm so glad you tackled the 'daring' recipe! Truth is, upon first look, it is rather intimidating, but spreading out over several days really does simplify it. You rocked it, your cassoulet looks amazing! Thanks for taking part in our challenge!

  2. I love the rosemary on the plate and the confit-ed leg looks perfect so glad to hear that you liked so much well done on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.