Monday, December 31, 2012

Duck Cassoulet

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I never really thought that this will be something I'll be able to tackle if it were not for my friend, Agent Macy, who demystified the myth about duck being very difficult to cook. I guess it was fate that brought this event to pass since I also saw the movie Julie and Julia on tv a few weeks back and to quote Julie when she was cooking stuffed duck: "No fear!" It was definitely no time to be fearful although the pressure was on since the main dish upon my suggestion for the dinner event was Cassoulet. To be exact, Duck Cassoulet.

I heard of Cassoulet from my French friend Cedric especially after he went to France for a conference although he is from France so to him, it was just a trip home. They may have partaken of this dish since it was brought up in conversation when they came back. I looked the dish up at that time but having no experience with cooking a duck, it was an alien concept to me. As of late though, my friends have been craving for a duck stew courtesy again of my friend Agent Macy and this gave me the courage to tackle something I've never cooked before. Thus, I'm presenting my rustic and simple version of Duck Cassoulet. With no duck confit available and after totally forgetting that it can be actually prepared ahead of time, I figured using a whole duck will be good enough for this dish. I synthesized my own version from two recipes of this dish: one is from Julia Child and the other is from Mark Bittman of the New York times. Bon Apetit! 

Duck Cassoulet

5-6 lbs whole duck, cut into smaller pieces*
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 cups white wine
5 tbsp tomato paste
5-6 cups beef broth
5 lbs Cervelat sausages, halved
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 14-oz cans white beans, drained
2 cups bread crumbs + tsp of Herbes de Provence
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, brown the duck skin side down in 
    2 tablespoons olive oil. Fry in batches and make sure that the skin is crisp 
    and golden brown. Flip until all sides have been browned. Set aside both 
    the browned duck and the frying pan with the rendered fat. 

2. In a deep pot over medium high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the 
    remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened. 
    Add the bay leaves and the dried herbs and saute for another minute. 

3. Add the wine and the broth and bring to a gentle boil. Return the duck 
    pieces and cook at a boil for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and bring to a 
    simmer and cover. Cook for about 2 hours or until the duck is tender. 

4. While the duck is cooking, melt the butter into the duck fat in the frying 
    pan used to brown the duck. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Set 

5. Add the tomato paste and check for flavor. Make sure you have enough 
    broth covering the duck meat. Add water if necessary. Add the drained 
    canned beans and the sausages with the fat and cook for another 5 
    minutes. Check for flavor and remove from heat. 

6. To assemble the cassoulet, arrange a layer of the beans in a 9x13 baking 
    dish and top with the duck meat and sausages. Cover with the rest of the 
    beans and the sauce. 

7. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and top with a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence.
    Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 30 minutes. Halfway through,
    poke the toasted breadcrumbs into the cassoulet with a large spoon. If a 
    bit dry, add a little bit of water to prevent it from burning.

8. Serve with a good loaf of French bread.

* The duck was cut into smaller pieces as you would a chicken. It is a bit tougher so be ready to sweat just a tiny bit. 

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