It’s the time of year where most of my game is coming out of the freezer again. Not that it’s a bad thing, but eating through 400 venison sausages could get a little redundant if I simply grilled them every night. To break the monotony, I find that it helps to get a second opinion. In this case, I sought out Spoon and Stable chef and owner Gavin Kaysen.
With a few ducks, a boatload of sausages, and one of the best French chefs in the country, it seemed only appropriate that we make a cassoulet. If you’re unfamiliar, cassoulet is a French dish of duck confit, lots of meats, and beans. I’ve made a few successful cassoulets in my day, ranging from bare bones to ultra-traditional, so I was excited to see what Gavin would bring to the table.
To summarize this recipe, we covered the bottoms of two cast iron pans with an eggplant puree. Next, we seared off some sausages and pork chops and layered them on top of the puree. After that, we scattered baked beans and mustard greens all over the meat, garnished the whole thing with wild duck leg confit (yes, that’s correct, and I’m very happy about it), and tossed herbed breadcrumbs on top before it finished up in the oven.
This recipe is a great option to prep ahead and assemble the next day for a large group, especially because the meats can be swapped out for other things you might have on hand.
Note: if you can’t find cranberry beans fresh in their pods, use dried cranberry beans. Cook them in stock until soft, then continue with the recipe, making sure to reserve the cooking liquid.
Spoon and Stable Cassoulet by Chef Gavin Kaysen
Preparation time: 6 hours
Cooking time: 4 hours
Special equipment: Two 10-inch cast iron pans
Two days prior, prep both the confit ingredients:
Shallot and Garlic Confit
- 4 large shallots, unpeeled
- 2 whole heads garlic, unpeeled
- 2½ cups olive oil
Place shallots and garlic in a small saucepan and cover with olive oil (about 2 ½ cups). Place over low heat and cook at just below a simmer for 60 to 80 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then squeeze the shallots and garlic cloves from the skin. Store refrigerated up to one week.
- 8 wild duck legs, or 4 farmed duck legs
- 1 part sugar to 2 parts salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 2 bay leafs, ground
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon ground star anise
- Melted duck fat, about a quart
Cover the duck with the salt and sugar mixture and let it sit for 24 hours. Rinse the duck and dry it with towels. Add all of the herbs and spices and duck legs to the duck fat. Wrap in foil and place into a 275°F oven for four hours. Pull the duck out of the fat and let cool under wet towels. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bone.
Day-of, prep the remaining ingredients:
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 small onions, one quartered and one small diced
- 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic head, 6 cloves peeled and minced, the rest halved
- 2 small head fennel, one quartered and one small diced
- 1 quart fresh, shelled cranberry beans
- 4 quarts brown veal stock, or low-sodium beef broth
- 1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, and ½ teaspoon black peppercorns wrapped in cheesecloth and secured with butcher’s twine)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bottle (750ml) dry sherry
- ½ bottle (375ml) dry white wine
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the quartered onion, carrot, celery, halved garlic, and quartered fennel (keep the chunks large enough to easily remove them later). Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are browned. Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Then add the beans, cover, and transfer to the oven for 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Strain the beans, reserving the liquid and discarding the pieces of vegetables and bouquet garni.
Wipe Dutch oven clean and return to medium heat with the olive oil. Add diced onion, fennel, and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about five minutes. Add the sherry and wine and reduce until almost dry. Add the reserved beans and their cooking liquid, and reduce until the liquid reaches a glaze consistency. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 bunches mustard greens, stems removed and washed in cold water at least three times
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring until translucent. Add the mustard greens with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Saute until greens are tender, about five minutes. Keep warm.
- 3 eggplants
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for seasoning
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise, score the flesh with a paring knife, and sprinkle with two tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and place flesh-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven for 35–40 minutes, or until very tender.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until translucent. Remove eggplant from oven and, once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.
Add the cooked onion and garlic and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve and heat in a medium saucepan before serving.
- 2 huge pork chops
- 3 venison sausages
- 3 pork sausages
- Micro mustard greens
Grill the venison sausages and pork chops until browned but not cooked through.
Spread a layer of eggplant puree on the bottom of two cast iron pans, and nestle the chops and sausages on top.
Mix the mustard greens with the beans, and scatter the mixture on top and around the meat.
Layer the chunks of duck confit on top and cover with herbed breadcrumbs (toast them in a pan with thyme and butter.)
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the pork chops reach about 135 degrees. Garnish with micro mustard greens.
Finally, plate and enjoy!