French food is known for being rich and what better time of the year to eat it than on a cold and blustery day in February? Although the temperatures here in Pittsburgh had been relatively mild earlier in the week, by the time the weekend came, a cold front had arrived along with approximately an inch of snow.
In Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking there is a recipe for cassoulet, a slow-cooked casserole containing various meats, pork skin, and white haricot beans, however, I opted for an easier version. There’s no doubt that her version is exquisite but the recipe was multiple pages and I had neither the time nor desire to make it. So I made the version from my The Book of French Provincial Cooking instead. Just a note-my recipe did not call for pork skin and my local supermarket did not have haricot beans nor duck legs so I substituted navy beans and chicken drumsticks instead.
The recipe makes plenty so as it is just the two of us, we easily had another meal for next week. The tastes all complimented each other-the meats (sausage, bacon and chicken), the tomatoes, the vegetables (onions and garlic), herbs, and the white wine and served with a crusty baguette, it was a superb winter meal indeed.
1-1/2 cups dried haricot beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, chopped
6 pork sausages
3 duck legs, halved
2 large onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
12 oz. tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
Large bunch of fresh herbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh herbs and chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Drain and rinse beans. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Boil rapidly 10 minutes, reduce heat, cover and simmer 50 minutes or until just tender. Drain beans, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Preheat oven to 325F. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven, add bacon and sausages and cook until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in paper towels. Add duck portions to pan and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Add onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes or until beginning to color. Return meats to pan with beans, reserved cooking liquid and remaining ingredients except garnish. Bring to a boil, cover and bake 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until beans and duck are tender., uncovering towards end of cooking to thicken juices. Garnish with herbs and parsley and serve.