- 3 pounds French Coco Tarbais Beans, rinsed and picked over
- Water, as needed
- 12 ounces Ventrèche, in one piece
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 medium onions, skinned and cut in half
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1 bouquet garni, made of 5 parsley sprigs, 3 celery leaves, 1 thyme sprig, 1 bay leaf and 10 peppercorns, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
- 6 Duck Leg Confit, cut in half at the joint
- 6 1/2 ounces Duck and Veal Demi-Glace, dissolved in 3 1/2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 packages Duck and Armagnac Sausage
- 1 pound French Garlic Sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/4 cup Duck Fat, at room temperature
- Place beans in a large non-reactive container(s) and cover with cool water by several inches. Leave them to soak at room temperature overnight, checking the water level every so often as the beans will absorb quite a bit of water.
- Drain beans then add them to a large, heavy pot along with the ventrèche, garlic, carrots, and bouquet garni. Press the pointed end of each clove into the outside of the onion, add to pot. Add enough cool water to cover the mixture by at least 3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are barely tender, about 1 hour.
- Drain the bean mixture. Discard onion and bouquet garni. Remove ventrèche, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. Season beans with 1 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a medium skillet over high heat, sear duck and Armagnac sausages until just browned. Remove from the pan, cut into thirds and set aside.
- Lightly grease a large casserole (8-9 quarts), preferably earthenware or enameled cast-iron, with duck fat on the bottom and sides. Place half of the bean mixture in casserole. Add duck legs, browned duck sausages, chopped ventrèche, and sliced garlic sausage; drizzle with half of the duck fat. Cover with remaining beans.
- Stir tomato paste into demi-glace/water mixture, mix well until dissolved. Pour evenly over the beans then drizzle with the remaining duck fat.
- Bake until hot and bubbling, about 2½ hours, checking occasionally to make certain the beans are not drying out. (See Ariane’s Recipe Tips below).
- NOTE: Cassoulet may be prepared ahead up to this point, then cooled and refrigerated up to 3 days. Remove from the refrigerator and bring up to room temperature before proceeding.
- Increase (or preheat) oven to 400 degrees F. Bake cassoulet until the top is nicely browned and a crust has formed, about 45 minutes. If at this point, cassoulet is not heated through, cut open the crust, and pour in an additional ½ cup of water and/or demi-glace, and continue to cook until hot all the way through.
- Serve immediately. Each guest should get an equal proportion of beans to meats.
Ariane's Recipe Tips:
Don't hesitate to open the crusty top to make sure the cassoulet is not drying out. The texture should be similar to a thick stew. If it seems too dry or pasty, add some liquid, such as stock, demi-glace, or even water. Typically, you'll have to cut the crust and add liquid about 3 times before it's hot all the way through. Some cooks in Gascony think cassoulet will only be ready after 7 times of breaking the crust and adding liquid!
If adapting the recipe, try to use as many confit meats as possible. They will give the most flavor.
Cassoulet should always be eaten very hot!
Don't forget the leftovers. Cassoulet is even better the next day after flavors have had time to develop and marry.