The Grand Finale: Charcutepalooza Cassoulet

~ Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew ~

Finally the finale. The year of meat has come to an end. This month is the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which requires a menu, platter or composed dish incorporating 3-4 of the charcuterie items prepared over the year. My first inclination was to prepare a platter, because, frankly, this is how I best prefer to enjoy charcuterie – on a large wooden board with an array of little bowls filled with pickles, mustard, black peppercorns and sea salt, accompanied by slabs of country style bread (and just a little cheese.)

~ Caramelized Home-cured Bacon, Boar & Pork Pate, Pork Rillettes ~

But this is the finale, so something more substantial and celebratory than a charcuterie board is in order. December is holiday season, and nothing speaks more to our Danish family than duck at Christmas. And what better way to celebrate duck than with a cassoulet – a French white bean stew brimming with duck leg confit, sausage and bacon. This version is not an authentic cassoulet, as I had to use whatever homemade charcuterie I had in the freezer or could make on short notice. So, I am calling it a Charcutepalooza Cassoulet – or a Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew.

Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew

Start with uncooked white beans for best results – canned beans will turn mushy. If you don’t have access to duck confit, then substitute with an additional pound of duck breast. Serves 6.

1 cup dried cannelini beans or northern beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound duck breast (1 large), skin removed and reserved for another use
1/2 pound mild pork sausage links
1/4 pound slab or thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (15 ounces) plum tomatoes with juice
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 confit duck legs, boned, meat shredded

1. Bring the beans and 4 cups (1 liter) of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for one hour. Drain.
2. Heat the oven to 325°F.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof pot with lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Transfer to a cutting board and do not discard the fat from the pan. Add the duck breasts in batches, if necessary, without overcrowding the pan. Brown on both sides and transfer to the cutting board. When cool enough to handle, halve each sausage, cross-wise and cut the duck breasts into 2-inch chunks.
4. Add the bacon to the pot. Sauté until brown in spots and the fat renders. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add the  garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until crisp tender and beginning to brown in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour in the wine, scraping up any brown bits and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, and thyme. Stir in the beans and return the sausages and duck breasts to the pot, submerging them in the stock. (If necessary, add more stock to cover.)
5. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from the oven and stir in the duck confit. Return the pot to the oven and cook, partially covered, for an additional 1 hour.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Broccoli Rabe, White Bean and Parmesan Soup

Broccoli Rabe, White Bean and Parmesan Soup

Broccoli Rabe Bean Soup

I am having a fling. No, it’s not that kind of fling: I am enamored of broccoli rabe. It began with spending time over the holidays with a good friend who is obsessed with this cruciferous vegetable. After sharing a number of meals with her where rapini featured prominently, if not exclusively, on the menu, I had little choice than to be hooked. It was compounded by a weekly challenge at Food52 to create a recipe using broccoli rabe. That contest came and went, yet I find myself still cooking up a storm with my new best crucifer. My children are looking forward to the end of this infatuation.

I wonder what took me so long to discover broccoli rabe?  Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is a member of the turnip family and is known for its assertive, bitter taste. Some of its bitterness may be removed by blanching it in salted water before cooking. However, while it’s an acquired taste, the bitterness is what distinguishes broccoli rabe and makes it a great match for bold flavors in hearty dishes, which suits me very well. Not only that, as a member of the crucifer family, broccoli rabe is nutrient-rich, packed with vitamins A, C, K, and potassium, calcium and iron. If you are going to overindulge (sorry kids), it doesn’t get healthier than this.

Broccoli Rabe, White Bean and Parmesan Soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb. broccoli rabe, ends trimmed, washed, coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 – 16 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
one 3-4″ chunk Parmegiano-Reggiano rind

Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a large sauce pan.  Add onion and sauté 2 minutes.  Add garlic and chile flakes. Sauté one minute. Add broccoli rabe and salt, and sauté one minute.  Add stock, beans and parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 20 minutes.  Taste to see if extra salt is needed. Serve in warm bowls with 1-2 teaspoons grated cheese sprinkled over.