Duck and White Bean Cholent

Preparation info

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This meltingly spoon-tender duck and creamy bean casserole is reminiscent of a fine cassoulet, to which it is no doubt related. European Jews wealthy enough to enrich their cholent—the stew that for many was the taste of Sabbath itself—with duck and goose found their lush flesh would remain succulent and tender even after the prolonged cooking from Friday afternoon to midday Saturday. Today, kosher confit d’oie (long-simmered preserved goose) is still sold in Jewish delicatessens in France for creating lavish Alsatian-style cholents.

But the lengthy, gentle braising that renders such incomparably supple meat and enchants the house with a heavenly perfume will also fade the pungent seasonings. They will need some brightening up. So just before serving, I send in a fresh infusion of flavors: brisk minced garlic, rosemary, and snappy lemon zest.


  • cups (about 12 ounces) dried white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern, washed, picked over, soaked overnight in cold water to cover by at least 2 inches, and drained
  • One 4½- to 5½-pound fresh duck (or thawed frozen), wingtips, tailbone, and neck removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped shallots
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 10–12 pitted prunes, quartered
  • 4 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters, or 6 medium, halved (2–2½ pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • About 6 cups homemade chicken broth, or good-quality low-sodium canned

Lemon-Garlic Garnish

  • 2–3 teaspoons grated lemon zest, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons minced or pressed fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Place the beans in a very large (7- to 8-quart) Dutch oven or heavy, flameproof casserole in which you will be cooking the cholent.
  2. Cut the duck into eighths (or have the butcher do it). Reserve the liver and any giblets for another use. Pull off and discard as much excess fat as possible. Rinse the duck inside and out and thoroughly dry with paper towels.
  3. Heat the oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) until very hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the duck and brown on both sides over medium-high heat, beginning skin side down. Transfer the duck as it is cooked to the Dutch oven or casserole. Let the cooked duck rest until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin from each piece. If your cholesterol count permits, return the skin to the skillet and fry over moderately high heat until crisp on both sides, to render as much fat as possible (it will be a delicious flavoring for the cholent). Cut the skin into small bits and add to the Dutch oven or casserole. Sprinkle the skin and the duck pieces all over with salt and pepper. (Alternatively, if you choose not to crisp the skin, simply discard it.)
  4. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat remaining in the skillet. Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 3 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the mixture to the Dutch oven.
  5. Add the wine and prunes to the skillet and turn the heat up to high, scraping up all the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, then transfer the mixture to the Dutch oven.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Add the potatoes to the Dutch oven, sprinkle the herbs, orange zest, and salt and pepper to taste over all, and combine well. Add 6 cups broth—it should just cover all of the ingredients, so if necessary, add a bit more. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Cover very tightly with foil and the lid. Transfer to the oven and bake undisturbed for 8 hours, or overnight.
  7. Prepare the lemon-garlic garnish. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. Just before serving the cholent, stir in the lemon-garlic garnish.