Farmer’s Market Recipe: Crowder Peas & Duck Cassoulet

Fresh recipes inspired by local ingredients found at the Covington Farmer’s Market by Chelsea Cochrane

An example of a traditional cassoulet from the Toulouse Office de Tourisme, France

Usually I share quick and easy recipes with you, designed to whip up in under an hour. This is not one of those recipes.

Cassoulet traditionally is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that originates in southern France and usually contains water fowl, pork and white beans. In the classic French style, this is typically a two-day ordeal. As a general rule for optimal flavor and consistency you want to cool the dish down completely twice and cook it three times. This can get a bit tedious. I’ve modified this recipe slightly to fit my own cooking style, but have included options to expand upon for a more traditional flavor.

Purple hull Crowder Peas from Nick at the Covington Farmers Market

One cooking tradition I like to uphold is using locally sourced ingredients. Historically most long-established recipes would change slightly from province to province depending on what crops and game were available in that area. Why buy food from halfway across the country when you can get it fresh at your local market?

This recipe uses fresh crowder peas from Nick at Grow.Farm. If you see them there, don’t pass them up. Shelling peas together as a family is one of those life-long memories you don’t want to miss out on. Grab extra to dry and have year-round! Crowder peas are very close to black-eyed peas in the cow pea family, known for their rich nutty flavor and versatility.

Crowder Peas & Duck Cassoulet

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz uncured bacon, cubed, from Jubilee Farms
  • 10-12 oz quartered duck legs from Backwater Duck Farm
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup minced carrot
  • 1/2 pound oyster or other favorite mushroom, chopped, from Screaming Oaks Mushroom Farm
  • 6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound shelled fresh crowder peas, rinsed, from Grow.Farm
  • 6 – 8 cups chicken broth from Credo Farms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat a large dutch oven or other oven-proof pot on the stove-top at medium-high heat.
  • Once pot is hot add bacon cubes. Let sit for a few minutes before stirring, then sit again. Try to get an even brown on all sides. Remove from pot and cool.
  • Repeat process with the duck legs. Once evenly browned set aside to cool.
  • Reduce heat slightly to medium and sautee onion, pepper, celery and carrots in debris and fat left from the meats. Add a little salt and pepper.
  • Cover & cook until veggies are soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cover again.
  • There are two options here. You can add the peas, meat and stock back in, bring it up to a boil for a minute then soak overnight, ready to cook in the morning. Or, you can remove the veggies from the pot and cook the peas in the stock for 30 minutes, then add the veggies and meats back in. Either way works. Slip in that bay leaf here at some point, too.
  • And either way once the peas have cooked enough to soften you’ll want to cool the dish down completely, one last time, before it goes in the oven. This can be accomplished by a.) being patient or b.) placing the whole pot in an ice-bath in your sink.
  • Once cooled fish out any bones from the duck legs. The meat should have fallen off by now. Add your herbs and nutmeg. Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place your dutch oven or large oven-proof pot in the middle of the oven, uncovered.

I bet you think because it’s going in the oven the hard part is over, right?

Truth is, this classic French recipe requires a little more doting to achieve a true traditional flavor. You see, as this dish cooks it creates a delicious crust on top. Original recipes call to occasionally pierce this crust, gently scoop out some of the liquids underneath and pour it over the crust, returning it back to the oven to form another fantastic layer of crust. Traditionally this step is done seven times! I think a few times suffice, but definitely don’t skip it. Those layers add a wonderful richness and depth to this dish, and it would surely be lacking without them.

Continue baking until much of the liquid is cooked out and several layers have formed a nicely browned crust, about 45 minutes. Serve with a vinaigrette salad, red wine and a nice toasted fresh bread.

Bon app├ętit!