- 2 cups dried white beans (French flageolet, Great Northern, cannellini or navy)
- About 4 cups unsalted chicken or duck stock
- 2 small onions, peeled and halved through the root ends
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and halved
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 thick slices bacon or pancetta
- 1 inner celery stalk, with leaves
- 3 or 4 sprigs parsley
- 1 large sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 12 ounces mild pork sausages (preferably made without fennel seeds)
- 3-4 legs duck or chicken confit, or a mixture of legs, wings, and gizzards (see confit Note)
- 1⁄3 cup unseasoned dried bread crumbs
Prep time: 30 min, plus a few days
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hrs 30 min
Which beer should I drink with this?
This is a perfect demonstration of the way a highly hopped ale complements rich foods. Where a malty amber might seem heavy on the palate, the high hop bitterness of a pale ale or IPA cuts through the feel of fat on the palate, setting you up for another taste.
Pick over the beans and discard any stones or discolored beans.
Rinse, drain, and cover with cold water.
Four to six hours ahead of serving:
Drain and rinse the beans.
Place in a large pot and add stock to cover by about 1⁄2 inch.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
While the stock warms, prepare and add the onions, carrots, garlic and bacon.
Bundle the celery, parsley, thyme and bay leaf together, tying them with kitchen twine, and add to the pot.
Simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the variety and freshness. (The beans may be a little grainy at this point, but if they are still crunchy let them cook a little longer, or plan on longer cooking in the oven.)
Whenever it is convenient during this time, add the sausages to the pot and simmer just until firm; retrieve and set aside.
Set the confit container out in a warm place for the fat to soften.
Preheat the oven to 250˚F.
Drain the beans through a colander, reserving the broth.
Return the broth to the pot, bring to a boil, and reduce by half.
Meanwhile, discard the bacon, vegetables, and herb bundle from the beans.
Recombine the broth and beans, taste for seasoning, and add a little salt if necessary (bearing in mind the salt in the sausage and confit).
Remove the confit from its fat, scraping off as much as possible.
Brown the legs slightly (the pot you used for the beans is fine for this, if it has a heavy bottom), transfer to a cutting board, and divide them into drumsticks and thighs.
Slice the sausages about 1/2 inch thick and brown in the same pan.
Choose a 2-quart or larger baking dish, on the deep side.
Spread a third of the beans in the dish, top with half the sausage slices, then more beans and sausage, then the rest of the beans with their broth.
Arrange the confit portions on top, pushing them down slightly into the beans.
Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, mostly over the beans, and drizzle the crumbs with a tablespoon or so of the confit fat (either from the crock or from browning the sausage).
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the beans have absorbed most of the broth, about 2 hours.
Serve from the baking dish.
Makes 6-8 servings
If you present this as a bean dish accented with meats, rather than a meat dish that includes beans, then everyone won’t expect to get a whole drumstick or thigh. If you prefer the latter, feel free to use more confit, as well as other meats listed in the variation below. Just make sure you have room in your baking dish for most of the confit to brown on top.
I’m too frugal (and I like poultry wings too much) to consign duck wings to the stockpot, so I include them in my confit, along with the gizzards. That way, confit made from one duck (two legs halved, two wings and one halved gizzard) is just enough for 6 servings.
If there is a French-style sausage maker in your area, try to find Toulouse-style sausages, a slightly sweet variety flavored with nutmeg or mace. The strong fennel flavor found in most Italian sausage is out of place in an authentic cassoulet.
Substitute a ham hock for the bacon in the first cooking of the beans; you can incorporate some of the meat into the cassoulet or save the whole thing for another meal. In either case, the ham hock should provide plenty of salt. Other meats that can be added to the cassoulet include cubes of braised fresh pork, leftover cooked lamb or cooked poultry giblets (gizzards and hearts, but not livers) retrieved from making stock.
The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook
From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.