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« Do You Shop in Multiple Groceries Every Week? 5 Simple Steps That Could Help. | Main | How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School? Interview with Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP »

RECIPE: Braised Duck Breast & Cassoulet from Bistro Bella Vita (gluten- and dairy-free)

Braised Duck Breast, photo courtesy of Jeff Hage of Green Frog Photo

A Cassoulet, at its most basic, is a bean stew that is cooked in an earthenware casserole dish.  The dish comes from  Languedoc, a region in the Southwest of France.  Although there are many variations on a cassoulet throughout France and around the world, the French actually have committees that sit around and make rules about what makes their national dishes. . . their national dishes.  That's love.

According to a lovely cooking site,, a proper cassoulet is defined as containing 70 percent navy (or haricot) beans, stock, herbs and seasonings like garlic, and 30 percent pork, mutton and duck or goose confit.

For those of us with food allergies, especially to gluten and dairy, we often have to break the rules, and a cassoulet, surprisingly, can adapt very well.  One of my local favorite restaurants, Bistro Bella Vita broke the rules for me and accommodated my rather long list of allergies so I could take part in a version of this French favorite.  I first tried the duck with the cassoulet, and made a second visit to Bistro where the duck was nestled onto summer vegetables (pictured here).

Read Bistro Bella Vita’s Tender review, and the following two recipes for yourself. 


Cassoulet Recipe


-Dried beans (Great Northern, Cannellini or Navy)   - 4 cups

-Chicken broth, no salt added – 6 qts

-Diced bacon – 6 strips

-Diced pork tenderloin – ½ lb

-Minced garlic – 2 T

- Large diced carrot  - 1 ea

-Diced Spanish onion – 2 ea

-Diced celery – ½ bunch

-DRY marsala wine – 1/2 750ml bottle

-Honey – 2 Tbl

-Dried oregano – 1 Tbl

-Dried Basil – 1 Tbl

-Fresh minced rosemary – 1 Tbl

-Kosher salt to taste

-Sherry vinegar – 2 Tbl



-Soak the beans in water over night in refrigerator  

-In a large pan cook the bacon over medium heat until it is about halfway cooked, next add the pork and cook for about 2 minutes

-Add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and sweat for about 4 minutes (Don’t let the garlic brown at all)

-Add the marsala wine to the pan and cook the wine down about ¾ of the way

-Add remaining ingredients (Honey, oregano, basil, rosemary, salt and vinegar)

-Make sure the beans are covered by the broth by at least 2 inches. *

         *You may need to add some water*

-Bring up to a boil then reduce to low/medium heat to a hard simmer

-Cook for about 2 hours. *Don’t let the liquid dry out* Make sure you check occasionally and stir with a wooden spoon and be gentle.

-Cook until beans are fully cooked and liquid has thickened. If the beans are still not done after two hours, you may want to reduce the heat toward the end of cooking and just add some water a little at a time until everything comes together.



Braised Duck Breast

From what I understand from Kyle, the Special Events coordinator at Bistro Bella Vita, the chefs change the braising recipe from time to time, depending who is cooking, their creative whims and the type of product they are working with.  You can change the flavor profile by removing the white wine and herbs, using just the chicken stock to deglaze the pan.  Here is my interpretation based upon what the chefs sent to me.


-4 duck breasts, skin and fat trimmed; seasoned with sea salt

-Mirepoix (1 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup chopped carrot, 1/2 cup chopped celery). 

-½ cup of white wine

-1-1/2 cups of chicken broth

-8 large sprigs of thyme (you could also use sage)

-2 bay leaves


Braising Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thoroughly dry the duck breast with a paper towel (external moisture will prevent duck from browning properly).

In a Dutch Oven or a large, covered oven-proof skillet, sear the duck on all sides in 2 tablespoons of oil (or duck fat).  Make sure the pan is very hot before searing duck.  When the duck is seared, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the mirepoix to the juices in the pan (carrots, celery, onions) to the pan and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, and until the vegetables are a bit caramelized and just tender. 

Deglaze the pan with ½ cup of white wine. 

Add in the chicken stock and herbs, and then bring to a simmer.

Add the duck breasts back into the pan.

Cover and place in the oven @ 300 degrees F.  for 1 to 1&1/2 hours or until the duck is really tender, checking often and adding more liquid if necessary.

Remove the duck to a plate or cutting board, cover with parchment and let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice and serve over vegetables, or with the Bistro Bella Vita Cassoulet (above).


Warmest thanks to the chefs and to Kyle at Bistro Bella Vita for these recipes.   My thanks also to Jeff Hage of Green Frog Photo for providing these shots of the duck.

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