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Deconstructed Cassoulet

Rodney Strong - Deconstructed Cassoulet

Recipe by Chef Josh Silvers, down home: downtown


Duck Confit and Stock:
1 duck (5 or 6 pounds)
2 duck legs (including thighs), about 1 pound total
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
Approximately 1 cup of duck fat, melted, if needed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
8 black peppercorns

Pork Belly:
1 pound pork belly
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 peeled cloves garlic
3⁄4 cup apple cider or juice
2 cups duck stock (above)

White Beans:
2 cups dried white beans, such as cannellini beans
2 tablespoons duck fat
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced fennel
6 cups duck stock (above)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bread Crumb Topping:
11⁄2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons duck fat, melted

Sautéed Spinach:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound of spinach (about 2 bunches), stemmed and rinsed

For Serving:
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 fresh garlic-pork sausages
1⁄2 teaspoon canola oil
Caperberries for garnish


For the duck confit: Cut the legs of the whole duck, including the thighs, off at the joint; trim and reserve the excess fat. Trim and reserve the excess fat from the other 2 duck legs. Sprinkle all 4 duck legs with the kosher salt and put them in a bowl. Crumble 2 of the bay leaves and sprinkle them with the thyme sprigs over the duck legs. Cover with plastic wrap, set a second bowl on top, and add heavy weights (such as canned goods or a brick). Refrigerate for 12 hours. Rinse the legs and pat dry.

Meanwhile, with a sharp boning knife, remove the duck breasts, trim and reserve the excess fat, and reserve the breasts for another use. Cut the rest of the fat and fatty skin from the carcass and reserve. Reserve the carcass. Put all the reserved fat and skin in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Put the mixture in a heavy saucepan and cook over low heat until the fat is a clear yellow and the solids are well browned, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheese-cloth and let cool (reserve the cracklings for other uses). You should have about 11⁄2 cups duck fat. Use now, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months; melt in a saucepan over low heat before using.

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the duck legs in a deep, 2-quart baking dish and cover with the melted duck fat. If the fat does not cover the duck legs, add more to cover. Bake until the legs are very tender and skin is golden, 4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. Making sure the duck legs are completely immersed in fat, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day or up to 3 weeks.

For the duck stock: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the reserved duck carcass in a roasting pan and roast until browned, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a stockpot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and skim off the foam. Add the carrots, onion, celery, the remaining bay leaf, and the peppercorns. Simmer for 3 hours, skimming the foam as needed. Strain and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. You should have about 8 cups of stock.

For the pork belly: Sprinkle the belly with the salt and place on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and top with a plate to weigh it down. Refrigerate for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the pork belly, fattiest side down, and cook until golden on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Place the pork belly on top of the onion and garlic, seared side up, and add the apple juice and duck stock. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until pork belly is soft and easily pierced with a small knife, about 21⁄2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. Transfer the pork belly to a plate (discard the onion and liquid), cover, and refrigerate overnight.

For the beans: Rinse and pick over the beans. Soak the beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches for 12 hours. In a soup pot, melt the duck fat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and fennel and sauté until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the beans and add the beans and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper and let cool. Use now, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the bread crumb topping: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir to blend.

For the sautéed spinach: In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach until the pan is full and cover until the spinach is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes; repeat, adding remaining spinach in batches. Season with salt and pepper and place in a colander to drain any excess liquid. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the beans among four 6-cup ramekins. Top equally with the bread-crumb topping and bake until golden brown, 35 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the duck legs from the fat and place in a baking pan. Prick the sausages with a sharp knife and place in a baking pan. Bake until the duck is golden brown and the sausages are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cut four .-inch-thick slices from the pork belly and reserve the rest for another use in the freezer, wrapped well in plastic wrap. In a small ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the pork belly slices and cook until golden on the bottom, 1 minute. Transfer to the oven and cook until the pork belly is crisp on the bottom and soft on top, 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the pork belly over, and sear in the hot pan for 30 seconds.

To serve, place a ramekin on each of 4 dinner plates. Top each with a piece of pork belly, browned side up, and garnish the plate with caper berries. Spoon a mound of sautéed spinach onto each plate, top with a duck leg and a sausage, and serve.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Photography by Alan Campbell Photography

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