French Cassoulet Maigre (Meaning Thin)

“Each town has its own special version of this legendary dish. I have eliminated most of the fat by omitting the unsmoked bacon or salt pork normally used. I have also omitted the goose or duck fat that usually accompanies the traditional confit (preserved duck or goose.) The fresh duck that I use in the recipe can be skinned to remove all fat, if desired. The pork rind also found in other recipes has been omitted because it is not readily available in our markets. Also omitted are the bread crumbs normally added during the last hour of cooking to absorb the excess fat and to form a crust. Because I have omitted so much fat from the recipe, I have dubbed in maigre, meaning “thin.” Although the purist may be skeptical of my omissions, I hope that you will consider the ease of preparation, the healthier, lowered fat content, and the wonderful flavors of the finished recipe when passing final judgment on my version. The preparation of the cassoulet is divided into two procedures. The beans are actually the recipe for Haricots a la Bretonne and should be made a day or two in advance. And the cassoulet itself should be made one or two days ahead of time (an ideal dish for entertaining), because it tastes best when reheated. From--Richard Grausman--At Home with the French Classics.”

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. FOR THE CASSOULET: Remove the legs and second joints from the duck and cut into four pieces. Remove the breast meat by cutting next to the bone. Cut each breast in half and remove any excess fat.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the butter over high heat. Add the duck pieces, pork, lamb, and sausage and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. This can be done in as many batches as necessary. Season with the salt and pepper and remove the meat from the pan. Pour off the fat.
  3. Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine and stirring to loosen the caramelized bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Reduce the liquid over high heat by half, about 1 minutes. Stir in the glace de viande. Add this liquid to the beans. (White Beans with Garlic and Tomatoes).
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. In a large casserole, layer the meat and beans. Cover and cook until the meat is tender, about 2 hours. Adjust the heat, if necessary, so that the beans simmer gently.
  6. The recipe can be, and is best if, made ahead of time. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat in a 350°F oven until the beans and meat are hot and simmering, about 1 hour.) Cassoulet with Beans will serve 8.
  7. FOR THE HARICOTS A LA BRETONNE (White Beans with Garlic and Tomatoes).
  8. Brittany style white beans are dried white beans that are cooked and mixed with a fresh tomato sauce. They are excellent when served with roast lamb, but more important, they serve as a base for a marvelous cassoulet.
  9. After cooking the beans, reduce the cooking liquid, which is usually discarded, to form a sauce. This recipe can be used to cook other beans and legumes (such as pinto beans, limas, black eyed peas, and lentils), which can be served with or without the reduced liquid and/or the tomato sauce. Beans without the cassoulet will serve 10 to 12.
  10. Place the beans in a large casserole or saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and allow to stand covered for 20 to 30 minutes.
  11. Rinse the beans in cold water, drain, and return them to the casserole with the carrot, cloved onion, head of garlic, and one bouquet garni. Add water to cover by 1 inch (2 to 2 1/2 quarts). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender yet still firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  12. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard the carrot, onion, head of garlic, and bouqet garni. Reduce the liquid over high heat until it thickens and only 1 cup remains. Pour this sauce over the beans and set aside.
  13. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the chopped onions, cover, and cook slowly until soft, about 6 minutes.
  14. Add the tomatoes, chopped garlic, and remaining bouquet garni. Season with the salt and pepper, cover, and simmer gently until the tomatoes soften and the sauce forms, about 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni.
  15. Add the tomato sauce, which should not be watery, to the cooked beans. (At this point the beans may be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen.).
  16. Before serving, bring the beans slowly to a boil. Stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve hot.
  17. NOTE* If you are making these beans for the Cassoulet Maigre, omit the final butter and parsley from step 7.
  19. A bouquet garni consists of 4 to 5 springs parsley, 1 bay leaf, and 2 to 3 springs fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried) which I tie up in a celery stalk cut in half. The reason for tying the ingredients together is to enable you to discard them easily once the cooking is finished. Place the fresh or dried thyme in the hollow of the celery stalk half and cover with the bay leaf and parsley sprigs.
  20. Glace de is the essence of stock and the result of a long reduction. Its full flavor and body add character and color to sauce. By reducing stock until it has practically no water, glaze can be stored in your refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it. A hot glaze has the consistency of a thick syrup; when cold, it will be firm and gelatinous. Without it. The sauce will be very good; with its addition, it will be even better.

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