4 cups dried great northern or other small white beans (we used cannelli)
4 fresh ham hocks (about 1 lb. each) large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 lb. fresh pork rind, cubed
I ham bone (we used 2 lbs baby back ribs cut 1" long)
1 tbsp. duck fat
I lb. unseasoned fresh pork sausage (about 4 links), cut into 2" pieces (mild Italian)
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
Confit of I quartered duck or 4 whole legs
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
I . Rinse beans thoroughly, pick through and discard stones. Set beans aside.
2. Put ham hocks in a large pot. Add 1 onion, thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours. Remove from heat allow to cool for 15 minutes, then drain ham hocks, discarding onion and thyme. Cut meat from each hock into 2 pieces. Discard bones and set meat aside.
3. Meanwhile, put pork rind and I onion in a large heavybottomed pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pork rind is rendered, about 20 minutes. Add beans ham bone, and 4 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, and cook until beans are tender, about 11/2 hours. Season to taste with salt, then set beans aside to cool. Remove and discard onion from
beans with a slotted spoon (it's all right if some pieces of onion remain).
4. Heat duck fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat Add sausages and cook, turning to brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Put garlic, remaining I onion, and 1/2 cup water in a blender and pur6e until smooth. Add gar lic paste to sausages and reduce heat to mediumlow Cook, turning sausages occasionally, for 10 minutes more
5. Preheat oven to 350'. Assemble cassoulet in layers: Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half the beans with pork rind to a heavy wide-mouthed 5-6-qt. cast-iron, clay, or earthenware pot. Place the meat from the ham hocks on top of the beans and cover with sausages and garlic paste. Divide duck confit into 8 pieces, then arrange duck on sausages. Spoon in remaining beans with pork rind. Season with nutmeg and add just enough reserved bean cooking liquid to cover the beans (about 3 cups), reserving remaining liquid. Bake, uncovered, until cassoulet comes to a simmer and a crust begins to form, about 1 hour.
6. Reduce heat to 2500 and cook for 3 hours, checking every hour or so to make sure cassoulet is barely simmering (a little liquid should be bubbling around edges). If cassoulet appears dry, break crust by gently pushing it down with the back of a spoon, allowing a new layer of beans to rise to the surface. Add just enough reserved bean cooking liquid (or water) to moisten beans.
7. Remove cassoulet from oven. Allow to cool completely, then cover with a lid or aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
8. Remove cassoulet from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 3500. Bake for I hour. When cassoulet begins to simmer, break crust and add enough warm water to just cover beans (about 1 cup). Reduce heat to 250' and bake, breaking crust and adding water as needed, for 3 hours. Remove cassoulet from oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Serve cassoulet from the pot, breaking the crust at the table.