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Cassoulet of White Beans with Braised Pork, Sausage, and Duck Confit

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Serves ten to twelve.

Making this legendary southern French casserole is definitely a project. For the best flavor, Prepare the duck confit at least one week (or up to two months) before making cassoulet—the flavor and texture improve as the duck legs cure in their fat. For more tips on breaking up the work over a few days, see Make-Ahead Tips, below.

And, since you'll need only about half the confit, check out our Test Kitchen blog for ideas on how to use the rest.

For the Beans
  • 2 lb. dried Great Northern beans (or other medium white bean), picked through and rinsed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • One 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh savory (optional)
  • 1 medium dried bay leaf
  • 1 small dried red chile, such as chile de árbol, or 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
For the Stewed Pork
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into
  • 2-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup lower-salt canned or homemade chicken broth
  • 1 medium clove garlic, smashed
  • One 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
For the Vegetables and Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup duck fat (from the duck confit) or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. pancetta (about three 1/4-inch-thick slices), cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 3/8-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (2 cups)
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • One 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
For the Final Assembly:
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 6-inch links mild fresh sausage (such as sweet Italian)
  • 1/2 recipe Duck Confit (meat from 4 legs), pulled into chunks
  • 3 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Cook the Beans:

Soak the beans overnight in cold water (soaking is optional, but makes the texture creamier and the cooking time shorter). Drain, rinse again, and put in a large saucepan or 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch (more, if you didn’t soak them). Add the onion, thyme, rosemary, savory (if using), bay leaf, chile, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, adjusting the heat as needed to achieve a gentle bubbling. Cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender but still hold their shape. Depending on the variety and freshness of your beans, this could take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, so check frequently, adding more water if the beans get dry. Remove from the heat and let cool in the liquid.

Make the Stewed Pork:

In a medium bowl, toss the pork with the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Heat a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat, add about half of the pork in a single layer, and cook until well browned on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pork. Pour off any fat and return the reserved pork and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the wine and boil vigorously until it’s reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the broth, garlic, and rosemary and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the pork is very tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Cool slightly, remove the meat from the broth, and put the broth in a bowl. Let the broth cool and then skim off as much fat as possible.

For the Vegetables and Tomato Sauce

Heat 1 Tbs. of the duck fat or olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until browned and most of the fat has been rendered, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and pour off the fat. Add another 1 Tbs. of the duck fat or oil to the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and add the carrots; season with salt and pepper. Cook until barely tender and golden around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the carrots to the bowl with the pancetta. Add 1 Tbs. more duck fat or oil and the onions to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring and scraping the pan frequently, until the onions are soft and fragrant and starting to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the onions to the carrots and pancetta.

If there’s a layer of cooked-on juices in the pan, deglaze with a few spoonfuls of water and add that to the vegetables and pancetta.

Over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 Tbs. duck fat or olive oil to the skillet, and quickly cook the garlic until it’s fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until they reach the consistency of a chunky sauce, 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside. 

Assemble and Bake the Cassoulet:

Strain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid (if you haven’t done so already). Pick out the herb stems, onion, and chile and discard. Gently fold the beans with the pancetta-vegetable mixture, the tomato sauce, and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Choose a vessel for the cassoulet: A flameproof roasting pan that’s about 16x13x3 inches works well, as does a 9- to 10-quart Dutch oven. Adjust the oven rack so that the pan you’re using will sit about 6 inches below the broiler. Heat the oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tsp. of the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until nicely browned all over, 5 to 6 minutes (they don’t need to be fully cooked at this point). Remove from the heat. Set the sausages aside to cool; then cut into quarters. Pour off any fat from the pan.

Spoon half the bean mixture into the pan in an even layer. Arrange the sausage, pork shoulder, and duck meat evenly over the beans. Top with the rest of the beans. Pour in the defatted pork broth and then add the bean-cooking liquid until the level comes to just below the beans—you should be able to see the liquid but it shouldn’t cover the beans. Bake the cassoulet, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Toss the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil with the breadcrumbs, cheese, and zest (if using), and spread about 2 cups over the surface of the cassoulet. Continue baking until the crumbs start to brown and the beans are sizzling around the edges, about 45 minutes more.

Sprinkle on the remaining crumbs, turn the broiler to high, and broil until the crumbs are crunchy and browned, about 1 minute. Remove the cassoulet and let it sit for at least 45 minutes so the juices can thicken slightly. Serve hot or warm.

Make Ahead Tips

Cook the beans up to 2 days ahead, and refrigerate them separately from their cooking liquid (discard the herb stems, onion, and chile). You can also cook the pork up to 2 days ahead, and the vegetables and tomato sauce up to 1 day ahead.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 670; Fat (g): fat g 29; Fat Calories (kcal): 260; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 9; Protein (g): protein g 48; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 53; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1420; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 105; Fiber (g): fiber g 15;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I consider myself an adventurous cook but have never made Cassoulet or even Duck Confit before. This recipe was enough to inspire me to do both, and I'm so glad that I did! The results were truly excellent and the time invested, while it lasted a week, were not taxing at all. Each of the steps are extremely simple but the result is amazing. I would recommend making this for a dinner party or any special event. My boys who are 5 and 3 also gobbled it up... my 5 year old asks "Are we having Cassoulet for dinner tonight?" often. I need to whip up another batch soon. It's indeed better the next day. Don't be shy - just jump in and do it. You won't be sorry.

This was my first time making duck confit and cassoulet. I cut this recipe down substantially because I only had two people to eat it. As I made the confit, cooked the beans, cooked the pork, stowing various containers of cooking liquid and ingredients in my fridge, I wondered more than once if this would be worth the time and effort I was putting into it. And the results were delicious the first time around, but I have to say this is definitely one of those better with time dishes because it provided some of the best leftovers I've ever had and made several delicious lunches for me to take to work.

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