Dining

Anatomy of a Dish: Cassoulet

The classic French casserole grows up at Le Fond in Greenpoint
Le Fond's Cassoulet
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table

"A bistro is a humble restaurant with a casual atmosphere—the kind of place where people come in a few nights a week to eat good food at a reasonable price," Jacob Eberle, chef/partner of Le Fond, a new self-described French bistro in Greenpoint, says.

The charming little restaurant, with its understated decor and tucked-away location, is indeed the kind of neighborhood place we'd like to frequent, but Eberle's demurring about the dishes that are actually coming out of his kitchen, which we would describe as a bit more ambitious than simply "good food."

One order of his cassoulet ($24) is all you need to know that there's more going on behind the line. Cassoulet is the ultimate in French comfort food, but Le Fond's version manages to combine rusticity with technique, resulting in a casserole that's as beautiful as it is satisfying. Here's how it's done:

① "The beans are the most exciting part of the whole dish," Eberle says. He soaks dried cannellini beans in fond de volaille, a.k.a. roasted chicken-foot stock, along with crushed canned tomatoes and a spoonful of whole-grain mustard. In the last few minutes of the two-and-a-half-hour cooking process, in go the meaty trimmings from Eberle's house-made duck confit, pork sausage and pork belly (more on those in a minute). "When these beans get cold, they're practically solid," Eberle laughs. "They're almost pure gelatin and flavor."

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② About that duck: Eberle cures Rohan duck legs from Upstate New York in a mix of parsley, rosemary, juniper berries, garlic and black pepper to give them an herbal, floral flavor. He confits them in duck fat, separates the skin from the meat and tosses the latter with mustard and shallots. The mixture is laid out across the reserved skin and pressed—"Basically, you get a sheet of duck confit with the skin on top," Eberle explains. He cuts squares of duck to order and sears them into gorgeous golden pieces to place atop the beans.

③ That would be house-made pork sausage laced with roasted garlic, smoked paprika and a smattering of fennel seeds. "Roasting the garlic gives the sausage a well-rounded, backseat garlic flavor, as opposed to the more in-your-face raw or sautéed version," Eberle says. Like the duck, the meat is pressed and cut into individual pieces for the cassoulet.

④ "For the Berkshire pork belly, I use some American barbecue flavors—a little cumin and chile powder," Eberle says. "That's obviously not French at all, but it gives the meat a more distinct and interesting flavor." Another departure from traditional technique: Instead of braising the belly, Eberle slowly roasts it to make it more intensely meaty.

The finishing touches once everything is hot and ready? A handful of parsley, and a squeeze of lemon and sherry vinegar. "This is a rich dish, rustic dish," Eberle says. "You need a little hit of acidity so you don't keel over." Consider us floored.

Le Fond 105 Norman Ave Brooklyn NY 11222 718-389-6859

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