Monday, January 20, 2014

Wisconsin cassoulet

I've made cassoulet before, from a recipe. The most recent time I decided to do away with other's recipes and go with what made sense to me.  Cassoulet at its base is a French peasant dish of pork, duck, beans, and fat; there are many fancy versions. This is a Wisconsin version of cassoulet by way of cajun country - the duck, for instance, would work very well with a tough or small wild bird (you don't want to waste a large, tender duck breast); you can use beer and bratwurst or white wine and andouille; instead of pork rind and fresh side pork we use a nice smoky bacon.  You're going to need something large to cook this in; at least a 7 1/2 quart enameled cast iron pot, or two smaller 5 quart pots.  It still takes three days, although confit lasts a REALLY long time and you could conceivably do this over a period of weeks.

Duck confit:
1 duck
2 tablespoons salt (kosher works well)
2 tablespoons ground thyme
Enough duck fat to cover duck in cooking vessel (if you can't get duck fat, use light olive oil or if you can, lard)

Shredded meat from duck confit
1 lb bacon
2 lbs fatty pork roast
2 lbs pork hocks
2 andouille sausages or cooked bratwurst
4 cups yellow eye beans (if you're reading this in northern WI, I get mine at Prairie Pines store in Gleason)
4 cups chicken broth
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
1 quart tomato puree
1 cup white wine or 1 cup pilsner
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregeno
3 cups breadcrumbs (panko or gluten free)
1 cup duck fat (again, if you can't get duck fat, use light olive oil or if you can, lard)

Day 1: Prepare the duck

Debone the duck - it's very similar to deboning a chicken.  The wings on a duck are better developed than a chicken, and you'll definitely want them.  At this point you should remove the skin - many recipes keep it, but I like to shred the duck so there's no bones in the final product, and you can render down the skin for the wonderful, wonderful fat.  Mix together the salt and thyme and cover the chicken pieces with the mix. If your duck comes with a neck and/or gizzard, include them. Put them in a glass bowl and leave them covered in the fridge overnight.

Day 2: Confit the duck, prepare the beans

Pre-heat the oven to 250. Wash the salt off the pieces of duck and arrange them in a oven-safe container, and cover with duck fat.  Bake for 6-8 hours, until meat is soft and falling off the bone.  Remove from oven and allow to cool; do not remove from the fat.  Leave it out overnight - the fat will keep the duck fresh.

While the duck is confiting, put the beans in a large bowl and cover them with water, with 2-3" of water above the beans.  Let sit overnight.

Day 3: Make the cassoulet

Mix together the paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, and oregeno. Chop the onion, garlic, and carrots finely; roughly chop the bacon.  In the enameled cast iron pot add the onion, garlic, carrots and bacon, sauteing until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine or beer and cook over a medium heat for 5 more minutes.  Add the tomato juice, one teaspoon of the spice mix, and the beans and their water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occationally.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the pork roast into 2 inch chunks and sprinkle with spice mixture; sprinkle pork hocks with spice mixture.  Dig the duck out of the fat and shred it, taking care to not get any bones into the meat.  Heat a pan (I like cast iron for searing) over a high heat with a little duck fat, and sear the pork hocks and chunks of pork until they are browned, then transfer to the beans.  Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and add to the beans.  Cut sausage into 1" chunks and add, and add the shredded duck meat.  Stir to incorporate everything, pour all but a couple of tablespoons of remaining duck fat over the top.  Bake in oven with no lid for 3 1/2 hours, remove pork hocks, take meat off the bones, return the meat to the bean mixture.  Cover the bean mixture with the breadcrumbs and pour the remaining duck fat over the top, and return to the oven for a final hour.  Serve with a crusty french bread or enjoy as is.

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