Cassoulet is a perfect rustic meal. It lends itself to improv, so I’ve added alternative suggestions in parentheses, but I strongly suggest you use duck stock and duck fat all the way through the recipe. When roasting a duck for a special occasion, I usually opt for roasting two, then save the fat, carcasses, and giblets, and use the second bird for cassoulet.
Note: Duck stock will really make a difference in this recipe, but it’s a “make the day before” project, since it needs at least 6 hours of simmering. This is actually helpful, since it will also give you an opportunity to pre-chop all the cassoulet’s vegetables while the stock is simmering, making the second day’s chores a lot easier.
Traditionally, cassoulet has beans and a thick cap of duck fat-infused bread crumbs. This low carb version substitutes rutabagas for the beans and a combination of crushed pork rinds and Parmesan for the bread crumbs. (To lower the net carbs even more—to about 7g per portion—omit the rutabagas.) Compare to my traditional cassoulet, which comes in at about 1,200 calories and 53 net carbs per portion. It’s utterly delicious, but there’s a price :/
Low Carb Cassoulet
Serves 8 // 713 calories, 11g net carbs
DAY 1 INGREDIENTS
Pre-Chop These Vegetables
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 large (or 4 small) shallots, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 rutabagas, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
Duck Stock Ingredients (Yield: Approx 1.5 quarts)
1-2 duck carcasses from roasted ducks, as well as necks and giblets
3 quarts organic low sodium chicken broth (or water)
1 stalk celery
1 cup tomatoes, chopped (canned is fine)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 branches of thyme and parsley and 2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
DAY 2 INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons duck fat (or Kerrygold butter)
1 pound pork shoulder, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes
1-2 pounds duck meat from legs and breasts
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound delicate, lightly-flavored pork sausage (boudin blanc, bockwurst, bratwurst, or weisswurst) cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 pound pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces
2 cups diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
2 cups duck stock (or organic chicken broth)
Bouquet Garni: 3 bay leaves, 4 sprigs marjoram and 4 sprigs thyme tied together with string (if using dried herbs, use 1/2 tsp. each of thyme and marjoram)
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 three-ounce bag unflavored pork rinds
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
DAY 1—MAKE DUCK STOCK & PRE-CHOP VEGETABLES
Put the duck carcass, necks and giblets in a large stock pot, cover with chicken stock (or water), and bring to a boil. While waiting for the stock to boil, roughly cut the carrot, celery, and onion and add to the water. Also add the tomatoes, dried mushrooms, garlic, herbs, peppercorns.
Once the stock boils, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 6 or more hours. Top up more stock or water, as needed, to keep the bones submerged.
Take the stock off the heat, pour it through a sieve to remove all the vegetables and meat, and refrigerate.
DAY 2—CUT UP THE MEATS & ASSEMBLE THE CASSOULET
Melt the duck fat (or butter) in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot (5-1/2-quart size or more) over medium heat. Add the pork shoulder cubes and brown all sides. Remove the pork from the pot. Add the duck to the pot and brown, adding more duck fat, if needed. Remove from pot.
After the pieces of duck have cooled, pull meat off the bones (for legs) and shred, then lightly salt. For the breast and thighs, cut the meat into thin slices.
Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add tomato paste and mix well. Add sausage and pancetta (or bacon) to the pot. Cook five minutes until sausage is browned. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and fennel seeds. Cook until lightly browned. Add pork and duck back to the pot.
Add tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes, then add stock, rutabaga cubes, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil. Push the rutabagas and meat down with a spoon so they’re submerged. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.
While the cassoulet is simmering, make the crunchy topping—
Crush pork skins with your hands until they are medium-sized “breadcrumbs.” Add Parmesan. Sprinkle with truffle oil and toss thoroughly.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
When the cassoulet has simmered for an hour, remove the bouquet garni. If you used dried herbs, ignore this step. Taste the cassoulet. It shouldn’t need salt or pepper, but this is the point to add a bit, if needed.
Place the Dutch oven in the oven and bake, uncovered, for roughly 1-1/4 hours. There is no need to stir.
Sprinkle the prepared topping on the cassoulet. Place under the broiler for a minute or two to semi-melt the Parmesan. Watch carefully!
Serve immediately or over the next few days – it gets even better with time.