DC #21 – Daring Cooks do Cassoulet and Confit

by Jenn on January 14, 2011

in Dairy Free,Daring Kitchen,Gluten Free,Meats

PAG_09512

A dish that flies in the face of 90% of New Year’s resolutions made and broken every January, cassoulet is essentially an intense and rich French version of good old pork & beans.  This challenge had two techniques to learn – the art of making a confit (the ages-old preservation method of slow-cooking meat immersed in fat) and creating a version of the famed several-days-to-prepare dish from the Southwest of France, cassoulet.  I had never really known what confit exactly was before, and was really excited to learn yet another new method thanks to the wonderful Daring Cooks.  Unfortunately, I think I confited (is that a word?) my entire cassoulet!

Cassoulet is actually fairly easy to make – you prep all the main components separately, and then bring them together and slow cook for a nice long time, enjoying the aromas that will fill every space of your home, transporting you to a different time and place.

Blog Checking Lines: 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.

Step 1 – make the confit.  For confit, the recipe called for duck fat (graisse de canard), a good clue that whatever was going to be made would turn out delicious and calorie intense.  4 cuisses de canard (duck legs) immersed in duck fat and baked with garlic and herbs until the meat is literally falling off the bone.  Seriously, how could one go wrong there?  Pretty much you can’t, except for shelling out near 60CHF to not only purchase the duck legs, but also buy enough duck fat (about 4 cups) to actually fully immerse them.  I cheaped out and went with cuisses de poulet (chicken) instead, so my total was more near 50CHF.  Honestly I’m not sure it would’ve been that much cheaper if I used something like butter instead (organic butter is a little pricey) – maybe lard would have been the most economical? But lard does not taste like duck fat, and neither does butter.  Not by a mile.  Duck fat was something I was definitely not willing to sacrifice.

Step 2 – prep the beans.  This requires soaking overnight and then boiling the beans in water along with a kilo of pork belly and some veggies & herbs.  As I later learned, this works best if your pork belly doesn’t completely render itself while the beans are cooking.  Still not really sure how I could have fixed this.  Apparently dried beans, once soaked, are only supposed to need an hour to cook until they are tender.  Mine took three.  Mine have always taken at least three hours after soaking, and maybe this has something to do with the pork fat rendering? Not really sure.  After the beans were done I cut up the pork belly to add back into the beans, but deviated from the recipe a bit because I made sure to trim all of the fat from the pork belly (aka, toss 2/3 of it).

Step 3 – cook the sausages.  Six sausages get cooked on the stove in a bit more duck fat.  I chose the little 100g cervelas because there was already a ton of meat in this dish.

Step 4 – fry the onions.   In the leftover duckfat still in the skillet from the sausages, onions get fried.  Onions are then supposed to be puréed, but I like the texture of onions so I left them chopped (and I’m lazy).

Phew! I think we are ready to go! Now that is a LOT of food!

The beans, the cuisses de poulet (once the fat is melted so they can easily be pulled out of the confit), the pork belly, the sausage, and the onions all go into one big pot (or a couple, depending on how large your kitchenware is), and bake.  Then you take it out, let it chill in the fridge overnight, and repeat the next day.  Break the crust, and repeat.

My problem?? I never got a crust.  Instead, I got a sea of fat about 1″ thick floating on top of my cassoulet the entire time.  My guess is this fat came from the pork belly along with what I couldn’t wipe off of the chicken, sausage and onions.  In essence, despite my attempts to stir or even ladle off some of the fat, I pretty much slow baked the entire dish immersed in fat.  I confited my cassoulet!

The result was a very flavorful but insanely greasy dish.  It kinda sucks, because the ingredients in total cost me over 100CHF.  We chilled and scraped off what we could, but I’m pretty sure 1/4 cup of the cassoulet I made was an adequate serving size.  3-4 bites and I didn’t need to eat for another 6 hours.  Good thing at that portion size there were well over 30 servings!

Will I make a confit again? Sure.  I think several meats could benefit from the slow cooked confit method, but I would probably not pair a confit with such other heavy elements.  I think the next time I do a confit, I want it to stand out as the only star in a dish, rather than having to compete with all of the other richness in this cassoulet.

Will I make cassoulet again? I think I’ll pass.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth H. January 14, 2011 at 3:08 am

Well done on your confit – er, cassoulet…! You realy put in a great effort, and while the end results weren’t exactly as you had hoped, it sounds like it was delicious all the same! Great job, and thank you for sharing your hard work!

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:24 am

Thanks!

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Dinners & Dreams January 14, 2011 at 3:31 am

Cassoulet is so hearty and comforting. I love it. The sausages look beautiful!

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:25 am

Thanks. At first I thought it might be an issue that they had split when I fried them, but I think it worked ok.

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats January 14, 2011 at 3:39 am

Oh wow, you went all out – I grew up eating Cassoulet with Confit de Canard, but there was no bacon in the dish, and my mom generally cooked the sausages separately and cut them up and added them in towards the end, likely to remedy the issues you came across. She was also super generous with breadcrumbs atop to ensure there was a crust.

Incidentally, have you tried Saucisson Vaudois en Croute? That was a recipe that usually came out on a cold winter day if cassoulet was not on the menu. Very heavy but satisfying. While I can no longer eat those foods on account of my stomach issues, I am always fascinated by your posts :)

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:28 am

Thanks Valerie – yeah maybe the pork belly was just too much! Hmm I have had saucisson vaudois (which I love) but not en croute – I suppose I’d have to get back to work on the GF puff pastry ;) I’ll have to look up a recipe!

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Miss Nirvana January 14, 2011 at 4:06 am

I am impressed that you got such a wonderful photo of this dish! Great job on this challenge.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:29 am

Ha thanks! The photo was definitely not easy with this dish!

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Audax Artifex January 14, 2011 at 4:21 am

That photo is amazing and I love the way you describe the process you make it sound simple, and lovely that you will be making confit again and again yes the final cassoulet is heavy and does make a massive amount of food. Well done on this challenge.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:32 am

Thanks Audax – the process really was simple, even though a bit time consuming – nothing difficult technique-wise, just many many steps :)

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theveggie January 14, 2011 at 4:26 am

this looks great! the crust on your protein looks amazing.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:33 am

Thanks !

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chef_d January 14, 2011 at 4:48 am

Your cassoulet looks delicious! Mine was a bit oily too but i spooned out most of the grease before I put it the refrigerator overnight. Awesome picture!

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:33 am

Thanks! Ah yes, I should have thought to do that!

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InTolerantChef January 14, 2011 at 7:41 am

What a lot of work! I’m glad it was tasty though.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 8:04 am

Ha yeah a bit – but most of it wasn’t active work, most of it was just waiting for things to bake in the oven :)

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Rosa January 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

Wow, marvelous! That is a dish I have never eaten and can’t wait to make myself.

Cheers,

Rosa

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Rosa!

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Lisa January 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

Jenn, thanks so much for taking part in our challenge! Even though it didn’t turn out as you hoped taste wise, it’s definitely a knock out in the looks dept! Gorgeous photos as always :)

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Thanks so much for hosting!

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Melanie January 14, 2011 at 11:52 am

I was grateful I read your comments on the forum before I made mine! I was able to render more fat from the pork belly, which definitely helped my dish. (I still have sticker shock when I look at prices in Switzerland!)

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Glad I could help! :) I don’t really have sticker shock anymore, but after a year I still have not figured out the art of bargain shopping en Suisse. The most expensive components were the pork belly, the chicken, and of course the duck fat. The sausages I bought were pretty darn cheap.

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branny January 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

What is 100CHF in USD? Sorry the result was more greasy than you anticipated :( It looks great, though. But oh so meat heavy! I do believe that eating that dish would meat my self imposed “meat quota” for a good 3 months.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

It’s about the same, a little more at the moment – ha I think it fulfills my meat quota, and I don’t even have one lol.

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite January 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

The most expensive and time consuming dish that disappointed, huh? I was not overly thrilled with mine, though I ate it on the day that I finished it. Perhaps too close for comfort? It was taken to a wine club last night where people raved about it… SO it must have tasted ok. I just am not sure about it taking so long. The confit, I will make again, like you – it was the star technique… good on your for persevering through this $$ and all…

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Glad people enjoyed yours Mardi, even if it wasn’t a winner for you!

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Rochelle (Acquired Taste) January 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I’m sorry to hear that yours turned out so greasy. The photos came out beautiful however and by looking at those I think just about anyone would be on board to give it a taste :)

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Aww thanks Rochelle!

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blepharisma January 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Love the pics of your confited cassoulet!! My veg version seemed really oily at first, too, but luckily I managed to spoon off a good amount of it.

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Thanks! Yeah I definitely should have spooned off more than I did, that’s for sure!

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David and Stacy January 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Well done for a great looking result!

We did like our cassoulet, but we’re like you more inclined to do the confit again rather than the cassoulet.

Stay JOLLY!
D&S

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Thanks! Yes I am excited to try other confits!

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Biz January 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm

That looks delicious Jenn! And thanks for the photography tips – looking forward to more!

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Jenn January 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm

You’re welcome! Part 2 of my series is coming out this weekend :)

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Anna January 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Love your cassoulet — looks fo picture perfect! I am with you on the all the fat in the dish — I’ll be definitely scaling down on the fatty meats next time as well.

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Jenn January 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Thanks! Yeah I’d say choose the confit or the sausage, but both in one dish was a bit much for me…

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Rich January 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

A confited cassoulet? Oh heck yeah. I think it’s quite all right if it ended up a little greasy; I’ll take extra flavor and extra grease any day of the week, and I think a lot of people (who, like me, would rather eat tasty than eat healthy) would. This sounds unbelievably good …

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Jenn January 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

ha. I call an inch of liquid fat floating on top more than just a little greasy!

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Ariane January 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Did you at least save the fat to use in other things? Over easy eggs in the combination of pork and duck fat sounds heavenly! :-)

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Catherine January 25, 2011 at 4:26 am

Hm looks good! Great picture too

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Jenn January 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Thanks !!

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Robin February 14, 2014 at 7:49 am

I planned to try to make cassoulet and found and tried the same Bourdain recipe as you. Wish I had found your post before I made it! As I was putting it together I was thinking, “Where is all this fat going to go?” So I left out the part where you put the pork rind at the bottom of the dish. I’ve now baked it the first time, and will bake, and eat it tomorrow. It is cooling. While I don’t have fat above the beans, when I tilt the dish a bit I see it is just under. I wonder if I could pour out some of it out (while it is liquidy), before chilling overnight. Then tomorrow if it gets dry add a bit of low-fat chicken broth or wine? Having eaten yours maybe you could advise. Thanks a lot!

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Jenn February 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I think adding a bit of chicken broth is a great idea. I’m curious how it turned out that way…

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Robin February 17, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Thanks for your response Jenn (even though this post was so long ago)! I did pour off some liquid (as much as safely could without the cassoulet falling out of the pot). I put this liquid it in the fridge overnight and then could throw out the solid fat that was at the top. But I saved the now-congealed part under and added some back, (since it probably had a lot of flavor from the puree) plus some white white when baking the final time. I could have added even more liquid. This helped. At a certain point I thought I wouldn’t like this recipe at all, but having left out the pork rind liner in the pot, and doing the pour-off, we did enjoy it.

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Jenn February 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Glad to hear you were able to come up with a good result! I’ll remember to do that if when I attempt this again :)

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