The traditional version of cassoulet is made with beans; this one uses lentils and has an Indian flavor profile.
The success of this dish depends on the quality of the key ingredients: Duck confit, which is duck leg braised in fat, is easy enough to make yourself; see related recipe. But excellent preserved versions are available at gourmet stores and on Web sites (www.dartagnan.com). Use ultra-rich, preferably homemade stocks and a high-quality brand of Indian simmer sauce, such as Rasika's Kashmiri sauce (available at Rasika Restaurant and the Bombay Club for $5 and at some Giants and Whole Foods Markets for $6.50 for a 16-ounce jar). Use only the best fresh garlic sausage, available locally at www.simply-sausage.com (the French country sausage made with Duroc pork) or www.stachowskibrand.com (the Polish kielbasa). Organic, grass-fed leg of lamb came from Lava Lake Lamb in Hailey, Idaho (www.lavalakelamb.com).
Make Ahead: The lentils with the cooked lamb and sausage can be assembled in a casserole the day before. On the day you will serve, bring the casserole's contents to room temperature and bake, covered, for 30 minutes or until heated all the way through. Add stock if the lentils seem dry.While the casserole is reheating, crisp and heat the duck legs as the recipe indicates.
- For the lamb
- 1 1/4 pounds lamb leg, trimmed of all fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 4 cups chicken, veal or beef stock or broth, plus 2 cups chicken stock (see headnote)
- For the sausage
- 12 ounces fresh garlic sausage (see headnote)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- For the lentils
- 3 cups green lentils (French du Puy lentils), rinsed and picked over to remove detritus
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 medium cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
- 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 16-ounce jar Indian simmer sauce, such as Rasika's Kashmiri Sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To assemble
- 6 store-bought or homemade confited duck legs (see related recipe)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Leaves from 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
For the lamb: Dry the lamb pieces on paper towels, then season the meat generously with salt and pepper.
Line a large plate with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the lamb pieces and cook for about 4 minutes, browning on all sides (the meat will not be cooked through). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the paper-towel-lined plate. Discard the cooking oil from the Dutch oven.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Return the Dutch oven to the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the red wine, using a wooden spatula or spoon to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Add the curry powder and the 4 cups of stock or broth; mix well, then remove from the heat. Return the browned meat to the Dutch oven. Take two lengths of overlapping aluminum foil that are long and wide enough to press directly onto the meat and still drape over the side of the pot (for better braising). Cover with the lid; transfer to the oven and cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until the meat is fork-tender.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the lamb to a bowl; cover loosely with foil. Strain the liquid and use a fat separator to remove any fat from it. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock or broth to yield 6 cups total, which will be added to the lentils.
For the sausage: Use the point of a sharp knife or skewer to pierce the sausage several times all over. Place the sausage in a medium saute pan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the sausage over and cook for 10 minutes or until the water evaporates. When the water has gone, let the sausage brown on each side for about 1 minute. Transfer the sausage to a plate, cover loosely with foil and let rest. Cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces.
For the lentils: Place the lentils in a large, oval enameled casserole along with the 6 cups of stock or broth (from the lamb), bay leaf, garlic, onions, celery, carrots and simmer sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are almost tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Embed the cooked lamb on one side of the casserole and the cooked sausage pieces on the other side. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
At this point, crisp the confited duck legs: Preheat the oven (if necessary) to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large ovenproof saute pan. Place the legs skin side down in the pan and cook for 5 minutes, until the skin crisps. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until heated through.
To assemble: When the lentils are cooked through, arrange the confited duck legs on top, skin side up. Serve hot at the table, creating a bed of lentils on individual plates, with lamb and sausage pieces layered next and a crisped confited duck leg on top of each portion. Garnish with chopped parsley.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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