Beyond Pork and Beans: Lamb and Duck Cassoulet

Matt and I rented a studio apartment a few years ago for a week in Paris—Montmartre to be exact. We bought cheeses from the store across the cobblestoned street, picnicked outside the Louvre, and wandered around until we’d exhausted ourselves.

At a casual bistro up the block from our little apartment, we ordered cheap wine and a giant cassoulet. There was something so elemental about it, so rustic and warming and luscious, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’ve made a number of attempts to duplicate it with mixed results.

I hosted an evening of beer tasting the other night, and I needed a main course to serve after the tasting that could wait patiently in the oven until we had rendered our verdict. This is often the case when entertaining: whatever you’re serving needs to be flexible, in case someone is caught on the train, or stuck in the office, or you’re just serving leisurely appetizers. It’s good to have a list of dishes like this: not necessarily low-maintenance, but definitely low pressure in the hour before serving.

Since some of my guests don’t eat pork, I was determined to create a rich, decadent spin on cassoulet without it. I’m a bit surprised to say this, but we didn’t miss the pork at all. (A little lamb belly and duck confit do a bit to calm that particular yearning.) This cassoulet isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it was darn tasty.

I cooked the beans according to a quick no-soak method I learned on The Paupered Chef. If anything, the beans ended up overcooked—you’re probably safe leaving them quite al dente at first, since they’re going to keep cooking in the stew.

Lamb and Duck Cassoulet
serves 6-8

1 1/2 lb dried cannelini beans
2 strips duck bacon, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1/2 bulb fennel, diced
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 lb lamb belly (rolled and tied)
1 lb lamb riblets
3 confit duck legs
4 mild garlic chicken/turkey sausages or kielbasa (optional), cut in fourths
2 cups turkey broth
2 T demiglace (I bought D’Artagnan)
5 plum tomatoes (canned is fine)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme and 5 sprigs oregano, tied into a bunch

For crumb topping:
1/2 cup panko
2 cloves garlic

Preheat oven to 250° F. Rinse beans and remove any dirt. Put in large dutch oven with chopped duck bacon, cover with water until water is about 2″ above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil on the stovetop then cook in the oven for one hour. (Your beans may vary, depending on age.) Beans should be al dente, not totally soft. Remove from oven. Increase oven temp to 350°

In a large saute pan, saute carrots, fennel, onion, and garlic until onions are transparent. Push vegetables to the side and brown lamb belly, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Add to bean pot. Brown riblets and add to bean pot. Brown duck confit and sausages on all sides. Add to bean pot. Add tomatoes to bean pot as well. Use turkey broth and demiglace to deglaze your browning pan and scrape up any brown bits. Add bits and broth to the bean pot along with bay leaves and thyme/oregano bundle. Cover and cook 3 hours in the oven, stirring after two. Add a bit more broth if needed (mine didn’t need it.)

Remove from oven and let cool. Refrigerate overnight if possible.

The next day, bring cassoulet to room temperature. Remove all the duck and lamb bones, untie lamb belly and chop in one-inch pieces. Preheat oven to 275°. Toss panko with chopped garlic to make crumb topping. Scatter across cassoulet and cook in the oven, uncovered, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until crumb topping is golden.

In Lamb, beans, dinner party, duck

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