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Roast Duck with Cranberry, Cannellini and Romano Beans

This recipe is a fresh and lighter take on the classic French cassoulet, with pan roasted duck legs, cranberry, dried cannellini, and Romano beans. Make it in the summer or early fall when the fresh Romano and cranberry shell beans are in season.

I grow the flat Romano beans every year and am delighted by the bounty that just a few plants produce. They appear in my dinners in many guises:

· Blanched and sautéed with shallots and garlic

· Tossed in olive oil, garlic, and herbs, then roasted

· Or cooked slowly in good oil until they became meltingly tender and completely transformed into a caramelized essence of the bean

I cooked all three bean varieties this summer, when I helped my friend, Peter Chastain, open his restaurant, Via del Corso in Berkeley, CA. The beans are components of many dishes on the menu, and I prepared fresh batches a couple of times each week. I created this recipe to showcase the richness of the bean stew. I love the rich duck flavor and crispiness of the skin. The topping of gremolata cuts through the richness with pops of herbs and citrus.

I will explain the procedure for each variety of bean in the recipe. It may seem like a lot of work for just this dish. Make batches, as we did at the restaurant. Then you have cooked beans on hand to add to stews, soups, a salad or eat on their own, warmed with fresh herbs and a drizzle of good oil.

The French cassoulet comes from the Languedoc region where duck and duck fat are prevalent. Passionate cooks make Cassoulet by slowly cooking duck in its fat (called a confit or confiture of duck), and combine it with cooked dried beans, stewed lamb, and garlic sausage. Pour the stew in a clay vessel cover it with a thick layer of fresh breadcrumbs and warm rendered duck fat. Store the cassoulet for 2-3 months in a cool place. When ready to serve, cook the cassoulet low and slow in the oven for hours. Eventually the breadcrumbs form a rich savory crust. When ready to serve, break through the crust and spoon out the luscious jumble that has been cooking below.

Serve my cassoulet in a clay vessel, and make it with sautéed duck legs, and the fresh and dried beans. Enjoy it right away, in the late summer or early fall when beans are in season. The French Cassoulet is delicious during the cold months when your body needs the extra fat for warmth.

If you would like to make a true cassoulet, I would recommend Alice Waters’ recipe from the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook I have used this recipe so many times that my copy of the book opens to that page each time I use it.


Duck with cranberry, cannellini and Romano beans

Start the recipe the day before you want to serve to allow the duck to season over night. I always use good EV olive oil and good ingredients in my cooking to achieve depth and complexity of flavor. The use of garlic and aromatics for flavoring the cooking liquid for the beans is subtle, so don’t be alarmed by the amount of garlic used. Use other fresh green beans if Romano beans are not available. If fresh cranberry beans are not available, substitute with the dried borlotti bean and prepare in the same way as you prepare the cannellini beans.

Serves 4

The duck

4 duck legs

1tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons dried herbs de Provence

The Beans

12 ounces dried cannellini beans

1/2 head garlic, sliced across the middle

1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut in large chunks

4 bay leaves

2 tablespoons kosher slat

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

12 ounces fresh cranberry shell beans (about 2 lbs. before shelling)

1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into chunks

4 bay leaves

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 6-inch sprig rosemary, left whole

1 large carrot

1 celery stalk

12 ounces Romano beans, cut in 4 or 5-inch lengths

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

4 cups chicken stock


1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper


1. The day before, dry the duck legs and rub with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and herbs de Provence. Place on a drying rack over a sheet pan and cover lightly with parchment. Chill for at least 6 hours to allow the salt to draw out the moisture (which provides a crisp skin. Then the salt reabsorbs the moisture that creates tenderness. This has to do with the behavior of proteins and cell osmosis. (More info here)

Place cannellini beans in a small pot with water, 1/2 head of garlic, 3 bay leaves and one small onion cut in large chunks. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmer until the beans are tender (about 1 hour). Let cool in the bean liquid. Season with 2T kosher salt and 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to your taste).

1. Place the cranberry beans in another small pot with water to cover, celery and carrot chunks, thyme, and rosemary sprigs, the other 1/2 head of garlic, onion, the remaining 4 bay leaves, the salt, and pepper and olive oil. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer until the beans are tender (about 10 minutes). Let cool in the bean liquid.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch the Romano beans for 2 minutes. Drain well on a dish towel to cool.

3. Heat a cast iron pan large enough to hold the duck legs. Add 1T olive oil to the pan, allow to oil heat for 2 minutes and place the seasoned duck legs to the pan, skin side down. Brown slowly over medium heat on each side until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the duck from the pan and set aside.

4. Leave 2 tablespoons of duck fat in the pan. (Save any remainder for future cooking or discard when cool.) Add the minced garlic, chopped rosemary and blanched green beans. Sauté for 3 minutes and season with the salt and pepper.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the cranberry and cannellini beans, cannellini bean liquid and place in casserole. Make sure to taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the Romano beans around and between and lastly, place the duck legs on top, skin side up. Pour the chicken stock over the top and bake in the oven for about 1 hour and beans are bubbling.

6. While the casserole bakes, make the gremolata. Heat 1tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron pan used for the duck. Add the breadcrumbs and minced garlic, toasting and stirring slowly until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stirring will keep the garlic from burning, which you want to avoid.

7. Place the garlic breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add the parsley, minced thyme, grated lemon zest and chopped thyme. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

8. Serve the duck with a big spoon of beans and liquid from the casserole. Garnish with a heaping spoon of gremolata.

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