Although I read cookbooks from cover-to-cover, like novels, I haven’t actually tried someone else’ recipe in a long time. Usually from these books, I retain ideas or concepts, and formulate my own recipes. Last week in the Dining section of the Times, I noticed the recipe entitled “Ad Lib Turkey Cassoulet,” and it piqued my curiosity.
I’ve always loved Cassoulet, and have made it many times, but not in many years. This one featured turkey legs, which I love, and which I can get at my local Publix supermarket, rather than the traditional duck confit. The other ingredients were simple enough, although I did make a couple of substitutions, based on what was available at my market. I substituted turkey kielbasa for French garlic sausage, and ham (since I had it in the freezer) for bacon.
As with most bean dishes, this requires planning the day before. The beans need to soak overnight, and the turkey drumsticks need to be rubbed with salt and pepper, and left to cure overnight in the fridge.
The next day, the dish takes about 4 hours to prepare, but each step is simple. Roast the drumsticks in the oven, then braise them in broth. Simmer the beans until tender. Saute the aromatics, then add the beans. Make the crumb topping while the bean mixture is simmering. Bake the finished dish for about an hour and a half–covered, then uncovered.
The Times recommended making the entire dish a day or two ahead and allowing the flavors to meld, then reheating to serve. I chose to make the dish and serve it in the same day.
I added some cooked, buttered kale on the side, for color and lightness. Otherwise, some good bread and butter are all that are necessary for a truly memorable meal.
Although the recipe below is largely the recipe written by David Tanis in the New York Times, I’ve included it below, with my own substitutions as well as step-by-step images.
New York Times Turkey Cassoulet (My Version)
serves 6 – 8
1 lb great northern beans
1 small onion, halved, peeled and stuck with 2 cloves
1 bay leaf
3 turkey legs
salt and pepper for curing
8 cups chicken broth
4 tbls butter
1 large onion, diced
2 tbls chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, whole
3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
1/2 lb ham
1 lb kielbasa (I used turkey kielbasa)
2 cups panko crumbs
2 tbls olive oil
2 tbls chopped parsley
The day before assembling the cassoulet, season turkey legs generously with salt and pepper and cover and refrigerate overnight.
Also the day before, rinse and pick over beans, then cover with water and allow to soak overnight in the fridge.
The next day, drain beans and put them in a large pot. Add onion stuck with cloves and bay leaf.
Cover with fresh water by 2 inches. Simmer for 60 – 90 minutes, or until tender. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and set aside. (Beans may be made ahead and held in their liquid a couple of days, if desired).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring turkey legs to room temperature. Roast, uncovered for a half-hour. Add 3 cups hot broth to pan, cover and bake for an hour.
Remove legs from pan, reserving broth.
Remove skin and discard. Remove meat from bones and pick out any gristle or cartilage. Set aside.
In a large oven-safe saute pan with curved sides, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add diced onion, 1 tablespoon of thyme, garlic and carrots. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and saute on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add beans, turkey meat, ham and enough of the remaining broth to make the mixture soupy, but not drowning.
Simmer for 10 minutes more.
In a small nonstick skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then turn off heat. Add the olive oil, the remaining thyme, parsley and breadcrumbs. Combine and add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble the dish, add the sausage and nestle in the bean mixture.
Sprinkle the crumbs over the bean mixture, cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake uncovered for about a half hour, or until crumbs turn golden (about 30 minutes), being careful not to burn the crumbs.
Keeps for a week in the fridge. To reheat, place a serving in a skillet and simply add some broth or water and bring to a soupy consistency (any remaining crumbs will add body to the soup). If a crispy topping is desired, sprinkle the reheated portion with toasted bread crumbs.