These beans are on the way to becoming a cassoulet apart from the fact that the finished dish does not contain chunks of pork nor does it contain goose or duck confit. But it is enriched with duck fat, there are chunks of garlic sausage, and the dish does have a rich crumb crust. It is perfect with a grilled breast of duck or a sugar-cured duck leg.
1 cup haricot or cannellini beans, soaked overnight
3 tbsp duck fat
150g chunk of smoked belly bacon, rind removed and cut into 1cm cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf and parsley stalks tied with a string)
1 cup diced canned tomatoes with their juice
2-3 cups good stock (preferably veal)
200g garlic boiling sausage cut into 1cm slices or cubes (ask at continental delis or good butchers for a sausage intended to be simmered with other ingredients)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Rinse soaked beans and put in a pot with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain.
In a heavy-based pot heat the duck fat and fry the bacon and the onion for at least five minutes until onion is well softened and the bacon fat has started to run. Add the garlic, carrots and the bouquet garni. Stir for a few minutes and then add the drained beans, the tomato and the stock. Cover and simmer gently for about 40 minutes until beans are tender.
Drop in the garlic sausage pieces and cook for a further 15 minutes. Taste the juices and adjust the salt and pepper. The beans should still have liquid in the pot but should not be like a soup. They can be set aside for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Ladle beans and juices into an ovenproof casserole dish. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes.
Lift casserole from the oven and with the back of a large metal spoon press the crust down into the juices so that some of the juices ooze over the top of the crust. Return the casserole to the oven for a further 20 minutes or so until the dish has a rich brown crust.