Cassoulet Toulousain

“Cassoulet is one of the great classics of French cooking, of which there are three regional variations," says Dominique Filoni, executive chef of Avenue in Long Branch. "Over time, the differences between them have become blurred and their ingredients debated. Lamb or mutton, for instance, is often added to this version. The crust is also contentious, with traditionalists insisting that it should be broken into the stew seven times during cooking. This version is Cassoulet Toulousain or Cassoulet de Toulouse, made with pork meat, sausage and duck confit.”

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

2 tblsp. duck fat (see note)
3.5 lb. piece boneless pork shoulder, cut into 12 pieces
5 carrots, 4 halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
5 onions, 4 chopped
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
7 oz. piece pancetta, skin removed
2 tblsp. tomato paste
1 head garlic, whole, plus 3 extra cloves, finely chopped
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 ham hock
1-14 oz. can (400 g.) Italian chopped tomatoes
34 oz. (1 liter) chicken stock
3 cups haricot Tarbais beans or great northern beans (see note), rinsed well and soaked overnight
4 Toulouse-style pork and garlic sausages (see note) or other pork sausages
6 pieces duck confit (see note)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tblsp. roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt

Method:

1. Melt duck fat in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole over medium heat. Brown pork, in 2 batches, turning, for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan. Add chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until softened. Add pancetta and stir to coat with vegetables, then add tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Return pork to the pan with garlic bulb, herbs, ham hock, tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, drain beans and place with whole carrot and onion in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are almost tender but still a little firm. Drain, discard carrot and onion, and then add beans to casserole. Cover and continue cooking for another hour.

3. Remove ham hock, pancetta and garlic head from pan and cool slightly. Shred meat from ham hock and slice pancetta, then return both to pan. Squeeze garlic from head and stir into pan with extra chopped garlic. Season with sea salt and keep at a gentle simmer.

4. Place sausages in a frying pan and cook over medium heat, turning, for 15 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly, and then cut into ½ inch pieces.

5. In the same pan, warm the duck confit over medium heat, turning, for 2–3 minutes or just long enough to soften the meat. Remove duck meat in large chunks, discarding the skin and bones. Set duck meat aside.

6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place half the bean mixture in a 7-8-quart casserole, top with duck meat, followed by the remaining bean mixture and then the sausages. Combine breadcrumbs with parsley and scatter over the top. Place on the lowest rack of the oven and cook for 1 hour or until breadcrumbs are dark gold.

Notes & tips:

· Start this recipe a day ahead by soaking the beans.
· For duck fat, scrape excess fat from the duck confit and use for cooking.
· Both the duck confit and Toulouse-style sausages are available from specialty delicatessens and some butchers.
· Don’t use cannellini beans for this dish, as they will fall apart during the long cooking process.
· You could also add lamb meat to this recipe.

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