Holiday Turkey Cassoulet

Source: John Fink, The Whole Beast

Recipe Type: | Seasons:

This recipe was demonstrated for CUESA’s Market to Table program on November 9, 2013.

This is a special almost-one-meal dish known to be some of my friends’ favorite part of Thanksgiving. There is a little labor involved, but it’s well worth it—this is a great utilization of the whole bird and it elevates each part. This cassoulet also lasts quite a while in the refrigerator.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound cassoulet beans (pre-soak in water for 24 hours)
1 pound Christmas lima beans (pre-soak in water for 24 hours)
1 gallon turkey stock (see recipe below)
2 onions, chopped into small dice
4 stalks celery, chopped into small dice
9 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
⅔ pound pork belly and/or bacon
Turkey sausage with cranberry and clove (see recipe below)
Braised turkey thigh (see recipe below)
Turkey confit (see recipe below), meat taken off the bone and shredded
Zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch each of fresh sage, thyme and oregano, chopped


1.    Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set two heavy-bottomed pots over medium flame. Add the cassoulet beans and Christmas limas separately into each pot and cover each with ½ gallon turkey stock and ½ gallon water. Add a bay leaf to each pot and bring just to a boil. Skim any foam from the top and turn down to a simmer. Cook until just about done. Let the beans sit in their cooking liquid (make sure to reserve the liquid for use in this recipe—it also makes a great alternative to stock or a soup base).

2.    Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-high flame, cook the onion, celery, and garlic in a bit of olive oil until tender and translucent.

3.    Line the sides of a deep casserole dish with the pork belly and/or bacon. Add a layer of half of the cooked Christmas lima beans, followed by a layer of half of the cooked cassoulet beans. Top the beans with half of the cooked vegetables, then place the turkey sausage, turkey confit, and braised turkey leg over the vegetables. Cover with the rest of the sautéed vegetables and beans. Top with the lemon zest and herbs and add cooking liquid from the beans just to cover.

4.    Cover with a lid and bake for 1½ hours, checking to make sure the liquid is not bubbling over or hasn’t all evaporated. Add or take away liquid as necessary (there should be a small amount of liquid, but beans should not be swimming). If you have to add liquid, bake for another 10 minutes or so; otherwise, remove the casserole from the oven and either serve straight from the oven or cool and reheat when ready to serve.

5.    To serve, slice the sausage and turkey thigh, making sure that everyone gets a bit of everything on their plate!

Following are the sub-recipes for the Holiday Turkey Cassoulet. You will need one whole turkey to prepare everything below.

Turkey Stock


Turkey bones (You’ll need to debone your turkey to get the bones required. A butcher can take care of this for you.)
Turkey neck, giblets, and wings
3 stalks celery
3 carrots
2 onions
½ head garlic
A couple sprigs each of sage, thyme, and oregano
Black peppercorns


1.    Roast half of the turkey bones in a hot oven until they begin to caramelize.

2.    Add them to a large stock pot with the remaining turkey pieces, cover with cold water, and bring just to a boil. Skim the scum off the top and add the remaining ingredients, adding more water if needed to cover everything in the pot (use the minimal amount of water needed to keep everything covered).

3.    Keep at a low simmer for at least 4 hours and strain, discarding all of the solids. You should be left with a beautiful, clear broth.

Turkey Sausage


Combination of 1¼ pounds dark meat from the turkey thigh and ⅓-½ pound light meat from the breast (you are looking for a ratio of ⅔ dark meat to ⅓ light)
½ pound pork back fat (request this from your butcher)
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
½ cup cranberries
7 feet hog casings (request this from your butcher), rinsed


1.    Chill the turkey meat and pork back fat. Grind it through a meat grinder or Kitchen Aid attachment twice (or ask your butcher to grind it for you).

2.    Place the ground turkey-pork mixture in a cold stand-up mixer bowl and add the spices, salt, and herbs. With the paddle attachment, emulsify the mixture at a medium speed for 1-2 minutes until it begins to get sticky. Add the cranberries and mix just to combine. Test for seasoning by making a small patty and cooking it. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. You now have a fresh sausage that you could use if you like. Otherwise, stuff the turkey mixture into the hog casings using a sausage stuffer, a Kitchen Aid attachment, or a pastry bag. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Braised Turkey Thigh


1 turkey thigh
1 cup salt
Bay leaf, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and black peppercorn
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil
Turkey stock


1.    Using kitchen twine, tie the turkey thigh into an even oval shape. Add a gallon of water, salt, and seasoning to a plastic or stainless steel container. Submerge the turkey thigh and brine for 12-36 hours.

2.    Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat an oven-safe pan just big enough for the turkey thigh over high flame. Add olive oil to the pan and brown the turkey thigh on all sides. Add turkey stock to come up ¾ of the way on the thigh and braise in the oven for 1½- 2½ hours (depending on size) until cooked through and tender. Let it cool in the stock and refrigerate until ready to use.

Turkey Confit


2 turkey legs
⅓ cup cognac
5 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
1 tablespoon clove
1 stick cinnamon, broken up
8 leaves sage
10 cloves garlic, smashed
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 sprigs oregano
5 sprigs thyme
1 quart rendered fat (duck, turkey, pig, chicken—whatever you can get your hands on. If not available, use olive oil)


1.    Rinse the turkey legs with cognac. Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and rub all over the turkey. Cover and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

2.    Preheat the oven to 230ºF. Remove the turkey legs from the refrigerator, place them in a casserole just large enough to hold them, and cover with the fat or olive oil. Place in the oven and cook for 4-6 hours. Cool and keep submerged in the fat in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Photo by Celeste Noche.

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