There is, after all, no better sound than a live turkey gobbling. Until he isn’t.
Let me state for the record that I didn’t actually use wild turkey in this recipe (though I should have because we have some that needs to be cooked). However, it wouldn’t have changed the recipe or the process at all. Except with chicken you would want to keep the skin on. With turkey, not so much.
There is a whole section of French cuisine that isn’t fussy, or “haute” or Michelin starred. Well okay, maybe some of it is Michelin starred. French Provencal food is kind of like food from Tuscany. Rustic, simple, full of flavor and, usually, slow cooked. Remember my coq au vin made with a wild bird? Cassoulet is similar, but with beans.
To get this right, I got lost in the rabbit hole of Serious Eat’s cassoulet post. They really did all the hard work so we could get cassoulet right the first time. It’s a long read, but the basic gist is that cassoulet was originally peasant food. They used the resources they had at hand. So yes, they used duck. Do you need to use duck? Nope. Unless you’re a duck hunter and have some in the deep freezer. They likely didn’t use the overly fatty duck you would buy at Whole Foods anyway, but something closer to wild-shot fowl. I used chicken, venison sausage, and a fatty ass hunk of wild hog. You could, alternatviely, use wild turkey or duck, any sausage, bacon or smoked hog hams, etc. You get the picture.
I have two main takeaways from making cassoulet. First, if you have the Le creuset specific “cassoulet” cast iron thing, don’t use it unless you can fill it with all the stuff and have everything covered in the broth. I used mine, put too much stuff in there, and the meat on the top of it got a little dry. This is especially important if you’re gonna use wild fowl.
Second, do the bean soak. Just do it. You could use canned beans, but they will get very mushy and won’t soak up all the wonderful flavors of the pork and the sausage, etc etc. The result is similar to homemade charro beans: tender but holding their shape.
Oh, and it takes an incredibly long time to make. Like 6 hours at least. But it’s pretty freaking delicious, uses up your freezer birds, and most of the time is hands off.
- 1 pound dried cannellini beans
- Kosher salt
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 packets 3/4 ounces unflavored gelatin (see note above)
- 2 tablespoons duck fat or other flavorful fat
- 8 ounces fatty hog cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 6 to 8 pieces of wild turkey or duck pieces or 4 whole chicken leg quarters
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound venison sausage
- 1 large onion finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 carrot unpeeled, cut into 3-inch sections
- 2 stalks celery cut into 3-inch sections
- 1 whole head garlic
- 4 sprigs parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp allspice
Cover beans with 3 quarts water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Soak overnight. Drain and rinse beans and set aside.
Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place the chicken stock in a large bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside. Heat duck (or other) fat in a large Dutch oven over high heat until warm. Add the hog pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over and the fat has rendered out, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Season turkey or duck pieces with pepper and place in now-empty pan. Cook without moving until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the pieces and continue cooking until lightly browned on the other side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to the plate with the cooked hog pieces. Add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well-browned on both sides. Transfer to the plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Add a little butter if your pot is a little bit dry, depending on the fattiness of your game.
Add the onions to the pot with a little salt and cover for a few minutes so the liquid from the onions deglazes the pan. Cook until onions are translucent but not browned, about 4 minutes, and scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Add the beans, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, allspice, and stock/gelatin mixture. Bring to a simmer, reduce to low, cover and cook until beans are almost tender but retain a slight bite, about 45 minutes.
Remove carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaves, and cloves and discard. Add meats to pot and stir to incorporate, making sure that the chicken pieces end up on top of the beans. Beans and meat should be almost completely submerged. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top, about 2 hours, adding more water by pouring it carefully down the side of the pot as necessary to keep everything covered
Break the crust that forms with a spoon and shake pot gently to redistribute the liquid. Return to oven and continue cooking, stopping to break and shake the crust every 30 minutes until you reach the 4 1/2 hour mark. Return to oven and continue cooking undisturbed until the crust is deep brown and thick, about 5 to 6 hours total. Serve immediately.