Cassoulet was the fifth and final duck course of the Five-Course Duck Feast, but the evening continued. After all the rich duck, I served up a bourbon-laced apple cider sorbet, followed by a little cheese course– tiny wedges of Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese served with a roasted pear quarter alongside. Dessert was simple–at least for me. I simply served up gifts from friends–brightly colored macarons from a very talented baker and buttery iced and decorated heart-shaped cookies from one of our guests.
A few notes about this dish… after confiting the duck legs in this recipe, you’re now ready to make A Simpler Cassoulet, substituting the duck confit you made here for store-bought confit. You can follow the baking instructions in A Simpler Cassoulet, but if you’re planning to serve this as the fifth course of the Five Course Duck Feast I recommend portioning up the cassoulet into small ramekins and baking them at 375 degrees until the crumbs are golden brown and the stew is bubbly, about 20 minutes. You’ll have lots leftover which will come in handy the next few days since after this big feast you probably won’t feel like cooking for awhile!
As you can see in the ingredients list below you’ll need about 4 cups of duck fat to confit the duck legs, one cup of which you’ll get when you roast the skin for Mock Peking Duck, but you’ll have to find a way to make up the difference. Fortunately I had a large can of duck conft packed in fat from my trip to France last summer, but you can order 11.2 ounce jars of duck fat on Amazon for $7.95 plus shipping. As long as you’ve got the rendered fat from roasting the duck skin, two jars should do it.
With this rustic French casserole of lamb and sausage, duck and beans, my friend paired an equally potent 2005 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia. I’m not sure the cassoulet was our favorite course, but there was no doubt about the wine. Like Jesus at the wedding of Cana, my friend had most definitely saved the best for last.
Classic Cassoulet with From-Scratch Duck Confit
Serves 8 for the Five Course Duck Feast with lots of leftovers.
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 whole skinned whole duck legs (legs and thighs)
3 1/2 cups duck fat, melted
Sprinkle half the salt and a few grinds of pepper and scatter half the garlic, shallots, and thyme in a pot just large enough to hold the duck legs in a single layer. Add the duck legs and sprinkle with remaining salt, a few grinds a pepper, and remaining garlic, shallots, and thyme. Cover and refrigerate a day or two.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Pour duck fat over duck legs, cover and cook until duck is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 to 3 hours. (Duck can be refrigerated in fat for several weeks.) When ready to make cassoulet, warm duck enough to melt fat. Remove duck legs from fat, separating duck meat from bones. Discard bones, save duck fat for another use, and use duck confit to make A Simpler Cassoulet.