Molly O'Neill likes to use French-style fresh venison or pork sausages in this dish, though we used lower-fat chicken sausage. The bean mixture bakes twice; start working at least a day ahead. If you don't have a large Dutch oven, you can also prepare this in a 13 x 9–inch baking dish.
1 1/2 pounds dried cannellini beans
1 (1-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 cup thinly sliced carrot (about 1/2 pound)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
Sort and wash beans; place in a large bowl. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain beans.
Sprinkle pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove pork from pan; reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrot to pan; cook 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and tomatoes; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Tie twine around parsley, celery, thyme, and bay leaf to secure. Add pork, beans, 4 cups broth, 2 cups water, and herb bundle to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook, covered, for 2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cool bean mixture to room temperature; cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Arrange duck confit legs in a 13 x 9–inch baking dish. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove skin and meat from bones; shred meat into large pieces. Discard skin and bones.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
Bring bean mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat; stir in duck. Bring remaining 4 cups broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; pour evenly over bean mixture. Bake at 325° for 2 hours. Reduce oven to temperature to 275°.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Cool slightly; cut into 1-inch pieces. Stir bean mixture; add sausage pieces. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over cassoulet. Bake at 275° for 1 1/2 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
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I did this for two and substituted chicken drumsticks for duck legs. I also used canned beans and replaced water with stock. If you can tolerate cooking part of it one day and finishing the next, it is worth the wait. It is better than the restaurant cassoulets in France, and is not a lot of work if you cheat as I did.
I will be doing this one again for guests next week.
This recipe is not up to Cooking Light's high standards. What the heck are duck confit legs? Where do you get them, and what are possible substitutes? When the Cassoulet is baking, should it be covered or uncovered? I love a good cassoulet, but this one takes forever, and with the odd ingredient required, its just too much trouble.
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