Sitting duck – cheat’s cassoulet

June 14, 2009
Assembled, not yet baked...

Assembled, not yet baked...

Today, with gloomy rainy cold weather and a heavily pregnant friend here for lunch en famille, we decided to go all-out on the winter stodge and revisit a deliciously easy duck cassoulet I made a few times years ago.

The cassoulet recipe is a great Brigitte Hafner dish, from Good Living in May 2004 – a very stained and blobbed-on bit of newsprint that lives in our big folder of cut-out recipes. The original has a whole fresh duck chopped up and roasted in pieces, instead of the traditional confit duck, which makes it not so pricy and still pretty easy, but today I went the total Convenience Cassoulet route with bought confit duck and canned beans, thereby bastardising this into an even simpler recipe which still packs an excellent punch.

Bless the internet, because I’ve just found the original Brigitte Hafner version here, and below is my even quicker version.

  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • handful parsley stalks, finely chopped
  • 200g speck (or pork belly) chopped into chunks
  • 2 x cans cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 x vac-packed confit duck legs (I bought this brand cos I happened to see them in the butcher over the road, but roasting hunks of duck as per the original recipe is not at all hard, just takes longer).
  • 3 pork sausages cut into big chunks
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1-2 cups coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • handful parsley & thyme, chopped
  1. All golden and gooood...

    All finished, golden and gooood...

    Heat oven or grill and brown or roast duck pieces until golden, reserving drippings, and set aside. If using confit duck legs, cut each in half at the thigh joint.

  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  3. Saute onion, garlic, celery, carrot, parsley stalks in a little olive oil with a couple of pieces of the speck until soft and a little caramelised. Set aside.
  4. Brown speck pieces, then remove from pan and add to the mirepoix above with drained and rinsed beans.
  5. Brown sausage pieces in the same pan, then add tomatoes, and then the stock and wine and herbs, and turn off the heat.
  6. In a wide, deep casserole dish layer half the bean mixture, then half the duck pieces.
  7. Remove sausage and tomato from the stock and add half of it to the casserole.
  8. Repeat the layers, then add the stock & wine. There should be enough liquid to just cover the beans – if not, add water.
  9. Toss the breadcrumbs through the reserved duck drippings and spread in a thick layer over the top of the  casserole dish.
  10. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour or longer, until the breadcrumbs have formed a thick golden crust.

Serve from the casserole at the table with a green salad.


  1. Hi there, have found a new way through the wall (at last), and on peering through, much to my delight, I see the topic of cassoulet…one of my all time favourites!

    I don’t want to start any argument’s or debate on any of this, however, I am in a “Cassoulet Club” with some friends and I would like to add some thoughts and idea’s that we have discovered whilst cooking and researching cassoulet that you could add to your cassoulet recipe:
    -use the skin of the braised pork belly to line the cassoulet pot
    -salt the pork belly over night before dicing into chunks
    -use Toulouse (duck and orange) sausages
    -rather than bread crumbs, keep pushing down the top crust of the cassoulet every 40mins so to form a thick natural crust…we have tried a “seven, three and a five push technique” all working well!
    -dried harricots instead of canellini
    -crispin the skin of the confit duck legs and serve in a salad of dressed frizze leaves as a side dish

    I think that is enough to play with for now, though I did happen to be speaking to a good Chef mate from Southern France the other day, and he had recently been to a dinner where the chef had stuffed a woodcock with foie gras, and replacing the confit duck legs in the cassoulet with this!!

  2. Hamish, big welcome back!!

    And of COURSE you are in a cassoulet club, who isn’t? No argument from me on any of your serving suggestions (most especially that crispy ducky skin and salad, mmmmmmmmmmm. On the latter, I’ve sent Senor out to find a woodcock but so far he has only been able to present me with possibilities of Indian mynah or a poor lame maggie … must improve hunting skills. His, not mine.

    Very fine to have you on board once again. And I KNOW the dried haricots are actually the most basic prereq, feel a tad ashamed of self for sneaking but I am lazy and greedy as you know …

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