Pseudo-cassoulet with Guinness Foreign Extra

I’d bought a jar of duck confit last week, and I wanted to try doing something new with the one thigh I had left. Since I’d been planning to go on a “diet,” I figured, I’d cook up something high-protein and low-carb. I also decided to totally ignore fat content. Thus, cassoulet – the French country-style white bean stew that is traditionally cooked for hours, if not days. While there really is no such thing as an “authentic” cassoulet, in that there is no one traditional recipe for it, many recipes call for Toulouse sausages, duck confit, lamb shoulder, pork rind and belly, or some combination  or variation of those.

I didn’t have much time to spare, because I’d scheduled the recent holiday for playing A Game of Thrones – the board game. One game takes up around two and a half to four hours, so I only had a couple of hours in the morning to do everything.

So, I decided to go with a quick version which I don’t really even consider a cassoulet, because I took way too many shortcuts. I used canned cannellini beans instead of dried; I couldn’t find fresh thyme so I used dried; I was a bit too lazy to go all the way to the Terry’s accross town for Toulouse sausages when all the other ingredients were available in the local grocery; I also decided to ditch the lamb shoulder at the checkout counter because I felt I was already using too much meat. In the end, I only ended up cooking the stew for around an hour. Also, the lack of an oven and the impossibility of using a turbo broiler for this recipe forced me to do everything on the stovetop.

I used more than half a dozen different references for both quick-cooking and slow-cooking cassoulet, all with different combinations of ingredients, varying cooking times and methods. This was a very helter-skelter process, and I know this is more a bastardization of a classic French dish than anything else, but I was satisfied enough with the final product, and the people I shared the dish with enjoyed it, especially after a couple days intensifying flavor in the fridge.

Stove-top Pseudo-cassoulet

1-footlong kielbasa sausage
250g double smoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 confit duck thigh
1 head garlic
2 onions
1 tbsp duck fat
2 400g can, cannellini beans, drained
1 850g can, whole tomatoes, broken up, with liquid
1/2 can, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
1 cup, panko breadcrumbs
flat leaf parsley
dried thyme
cayenne pepper

Brown the bacon in the duck fat on all sides, remove, and do the same with the kielbasa and duck in turn. Chop up the kielbasa and separate the duck meat with a fork. Reserve around a tablespoon of the duck and bacon fat for the bread crumbs later.

Add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, then return the meat to the pot. Add the tomatoes and beans, half a can of the beer or enough to cover the beans, then drink the rest. Throw in some parsley and thyme; a bayleaf as well, but I didn’t realize I’d run out at home. It’s advisable to use a herb bouquet but since I only had the parsley fresh, I decided to just throw the leaves in. Simmer until the sauce thickens, around an hour or less, stirring every so often. Finish with salt, pepper and cayenne for some heat.

Toast the breadcrumbs in the rest of the glorious duck and bacon fat with some chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and top the stew with it. This would all be much easier if I had an oven with a broiler, but so is life.

This recipe had way too much meat compared to the beans. Doubling the beans would be good, and it’s advisable to use dried beans which are soaked in water with herbs overnight to draw in flavor and not end up too mushy.

I still ended up enjoying this, and cooking it was pretty fun as well. It was rich and hearty, especially the day or two later. Next time, I’ll really have to invest more time in this dish to see how much it could really offer. I didn’t want to get too ambitious this first time because I was afraid too much would go wrong, and I wanted to get a feel of what to expect first. In the end, I guess this was good enough for an amateurish, time-constrained first attempt.

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