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Double Duck Dishes - Duck Confit and Cassoulet

I’ve had some complaints that some of my recipes take too long or have too many ingredients. If you are one of those folks, you’ll want to pass this one by. Or, you could consider the first part as one recipe and the second as another, which is true. The first part is duck confit, which you can serve on its own. The second part is a classic French dish - cassoulet - which is made with the duck confit.

Confit is a French word that means “preserved.” Meats or certain vegetables are cooked in fat for a long time at low temperatures, rendering tough cuts like duck legs more tender, and when stored in duck fat in a cool place, they last for months.

To do both of these is a several-day process, and to be honest, I wondered if the end result would be worth the effort. It was.  So if you feel like something different, or a special dish for company, expand your cooking repertoire with this one.


INGREDIENTS

4 skin on duck legs

48 fresh thyme sprigs

4 bay leaves

14 garlic cloves

4 cups duck fat

coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

8 to 12 peppercorns


METHOD

Place the duck legs into a 13x9 casserole dish and season both sides with coarse salt and cracked pepper.

Next, rub in 5 thyme sprigs, ½ crushed bay leaf, and 1 smashed garlic clove into the flesh side of each duck leg.

Flip the duck over and repeat the process completely to each duck leg.

Cover the pan in plastic and place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Remove the duck and rinse each leg under cold water to remove any leftover thyme leaves or bay leaves. It’s ok if some pepper is still on there.

Transfer the duck to a sheet tray or platter and blot them dry on both sides with paper towels.

Add the duck fat and any additional lards or oils to a medium-sized saucepot along with the shallot, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, coarse salt, and peppercorns over low heat, just to a low simmer. This takes about 5-7 minutes.

Next, add in the duck legs and ensure they are submerged. If you don’t have enough duck fat, you can use any oil, lard or butter to make up the needed amount.

Place a lid on the pan and place it in the bottom third of the oven and cook at 250 for 2 ½ hours.

Remove the pan’s lid and cook for an additional 90 minutes or until the duck is very tender and shreds with ease. They will have an internal temperature of around 208° to 210°.

The duck can be served as is. However, to crisp up the skin, add ½ cup of the confit oil to a non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat and carefully add the duck skin side down and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the skin becomes more browned.

If you prefer, you can place the duck on a rack over a sheet tray and bake in the oven at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve the duck confit on a bed of fresh thyme sprigs or your favorite side dish.

If you want to preserve the duck, cool it in the oil to room temperature and then place the duck legs into a container and strain the confit oil into the container, completely covering them.

Place the container in the refrigerator to cool to form a fat cap. This will last covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

To reheat, place the desired amount of duck confit in a pan with ½ cup of the confit oil or chicken stock. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until warm.

The pot must be large enough to ensure the duck legs are entirely submerged and the duck legs are heavily overlapped.

One of the tastiest things to do with duck confit, by the way, is tacos!

And now, if you haven’t eaten your duck, we can make the cassoulet.


INGREDIENTS*

1  pound dried flageolet, great northern beans, or navy beans

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine

6 to 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled

4 duck whole leg confit

6-8 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound sweet Italian sausages

1/2 baguette or 4 slices crusty sourdough bread, torn into small pieces

2 tablespoons duck fat (rendered from browning the confit) or olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish


Soak your beans for 8 hours or overnight. (Although I do this in my pressure cooker because it takes less than half an hour.)

Drain the soaked beans in a colander set in the sink and rinse them under cold running water. Return the beans to the pot and stir in the diced tomatoes, white wine, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, and garlic. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by 1 inch.

Set the pot over medium-low heat and slowly bring the beans to a simmer, covered with a lid. Once it comes up to a simmer, cook for 30 minutes. The beans will not be fully cooked at this point.

Set a colander over a large bowl and drain the beans and aromatics into it. Do not discard the cooking liquid. It’s not necessary, but if you’d like, pick out the thyme and garlic peels, and discard them.

Set an oven rack to the center and preheat the oven to 300.

Remove the skin and any remaining fat from the duck legs and pull the meat from the bone. Set aside.

In a  Dutch oven set over medium heat, cook the pancetta  for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until it renders most of its fat, but is not yet crisp. Transfer it to the platter with the duck.

Season the pork with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. With the tip of a paring knife, prick each sausage in a couple of places. This will help them keep their shape as they cook.

In the same Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add the pork and sausages in a single layer without overlapping. Cook them until browned all over, turning them often, about 10 minutes total. Transfer them to the platter.

Cut the sausage into 1-inch rounds.

Set the Dutch oven over medium heat. To deglaze the pot, add about 1/2 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits stuck to the bottom and sides.

Turn off the burner. Into the Dutch oven, add a third of the beans and spread them out into an even layer. Arrange the bacon and pork on top. Cover with half of the remaining beans. Arrange the duck and sausages on top and cover with a final layer of beans.

Pour in the reserved bean cooking liquid. There should be enough liquid to just about cover the beans (the same level as the beans). Add water if needed. If you have leftover bean cooking liquid, reserve it in case the cassoulet needs more as it cooks.

Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and set it in the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes without opening the lid.

Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs:

In a food processor, add the bread and pulse until you have large crumbs (about 1/2-inch pieces).

Bake the cassoulet with the breadcrumbs:

Take the Dutch oven out of the oven. Remove a few of the beans, then bite into them. (They should be quite close to done. If not, continue baking until they are.)

If the beans look dry, add enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to barely cover the beans. Spread a layer of breadcrumbs over the cassoulet. Pop the Dutch oven back into the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Take the Dutch oven out of the oven again, and with the back of a large spoon gently press the breadcrumbs into the cassoulet to dampen them. Bake it again, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 350ºF.

Once again, take the Dutch oven out of the oven, and gently press the breadcrumbs into the cassoulet. Drizzle the top with 2 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil. Bake it again, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden and glistening.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Julia Child would be proud.



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