At Le Central, "it's all about tradition," says Melanie Tanphanich, casting an eye toward the vintage Le Creuset crocks, charmingly chipped from decades of use since the restaurant's 1974 opening. Her father Johnny and uncle Paul Tanphanich acquired the place in 1993. The Toulouse-style cassoulet is a house favorite; the rich remains of the prior day's stock are added to the daily batch. The staff keeps tally of how many days the base has been cooking and hit 15,000 days on August 23, 2016!
LE CENTRAL CASSOULET
For the duck confit:
4 pieces duck legs
1 teaspoon salt
3 bay leaves
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Olive oil or duck fat
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add all ingredients, except the olive oil or duck fat to a stainless steel pot. '
3. Add enough oil or duck fat to cover the duck legs (approximately 3 cups).
4. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
For the cassoulet:
1.5 pounds lamb shoulder cut into 1 1/2" squares
1.5 pounds pork shoulder cut into 1 1/2" squares
4 links Toulouse sausage
3 Duck leg confit
1 lb cannellini beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 medium sized chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped, stems removed
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 cup white wine
2 ½ oz tomato paste
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup and one tablespoon duck fat (use fat from the duck confit preparation)
3 bay leaves
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Heat large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add 1/3 cup duck fat. Brown the lamb and pork in batches, if necessary, approximately three minutes each side. Add additional duck fat to pan if necessary. Set aside.
3. Heat large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup duck fat. Add onion, thyme, and black pepper. Sauté until onion is translucent.
4. Stir in tomato paste followed by garlic and white wine.
5. When the white wine starts to boil, add 4 cups chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to boil and then add salt.
6. Add the sautéed pork and lamb meat. Bring to boil.
7. Add 1 more tablespoon of duck fat and mix.
8. Cover the Dutch oven and place into the 450 degree oven for approximately 1.5 hours or until meat is tender.
9. Meanwhile, boil the cannellini beans until tender, approximately 45 minutes. Drain the beans.
10. Line a baking sheet with foil and bake the Toulouse sausage at 450 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Turn once during cooking. Remove and cut each link in half.
11. Combine beans, meat and sausage and add 1/3 cup duck fat.
12. Bring 1 cup of chicken stock to a boil. Add the hot chicken stock to the mixture and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
13. Remove skin from the duck leg confit and then shred the meat over cassoulet.
14. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake until the bread crumbs turn brown.