Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cheater's Cassoulet

Let me begin by apologizing for not having a nicely propped photo, but it is what it is.  And what it is is an amazingly delicious cassoulet.  Yes, I realize this is mainly a blog about Italy but France is our dear neighbor.  And technically this dish isn't called a cassoulet, it's Duck Breast with White Bean and Sausage -- to which I added some diced homemade pancetta to kick it up a notch.  Although I have never eaten an authentic cassoulet, I would put this recipe up against a cassoulet any day of the week.  Any wagers?

Duck Breasts with White Beans and Sausage  
Recipe from Clyde Common
Serves 4

1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless duck breasts (1 to 1-1/2 pounds total)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 sausages, about 1/2 pound 

2 small shallots, chopped, about 1/2 cup (you can substitute yellow onion)
1 medium carrot, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Toast bread crumbs. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low flame. Add olive oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat with oil. Toast until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl or plate and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Pat duck breasts dry with paper towels and trim off any excess fat. Score skin in a crosshatch pattern at 1/2-inch intervals with a sharp knife, being careful not to slice through the flesh. Season with salt and black pepper on both sides. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof lidded sauté pan over medium-low heat. Place duck breasts, skin side down, in the hot, dry skillet. Cook the breasts until the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn duck breasts and cook the non-skin side for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

Pour off all but one tablespoon of the duck fat in the skillet and reserve for another use.  (Roast chicken and roast potatoes are both good uses of leftover duck fat!) Sauté shallots and carrot in duck fat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. This is where I added a small amount of diced pancetta to the pan.  Add sausages to the pan and continue cooking another 5 minutes, turning sausages once. Add garlic and thyme to pan and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine and broth to pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add bay leaves and cannellini beans and bring to a boil.

Return duck breasts to skillet, along with any accumulated juices. Cover pan and transfer to oven. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (or longer, if needed), until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into center registers 125°F for medium rare (unlike chicken, this is perfectly safe—and delicious). I left the dish in the oven to cook for 20 minutes because our oven isn't very accurate.  Remove from the oven. Transfer breasts and sausages to cutting board, tent with foil and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place uncovered pan over medium flame to slightly reduce liquid and concentrate flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings (use a light hand—the duck and the sausage will provide some saltiness).  Sprinkle each plate with a generous amount of bread crumbs (you will have some left over, and that’s fine). Don't skip the bread crumbs, it really adds to the dish!  Enjoy.


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