Cassoulet is French comfort food hailing from Southwestern France. It allows you, actually requires you, to take your time. This is something you can cook over a couple of days or even a few days.
It is a casserole of white beans slow-cooked with several kinds of meats. You can soak the beans on one day and assemble the dish over the next couple of days, maybe cooking the beans on the second day and baking the cassoulet on the third day.
This recipe is pretty straightforward. Feel free to add preserved goose, mutton, lamb, pork ribs, or salt pork. They would all be welcome in a vrai cassoulet. I enjoy this with a glass of our Chardonnay.
Note: Both Julia Child and Melissa Clark, cookbook author and contributor to New York Times add tomato paste or purée to cassoulet. Rebekah Peppler, cookbook author, contributor to New York Times, and resident of Paris says a true cassoulet does not have tomatoes. Take your pick, I’ll call it optional.
1 pound [455 g] dried white cannellini beans, picked over, soaked 8 hours or overnight, drained
1 medium whole yellow onion, 1 medium yellow onion diced
1 whole clove
2 bay leaves
12 ounces [340g] garlic sausage
2 medium carrots cut in half crosswise
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
6 fresh parsley sprigs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
8 cups [2L] very good or homemade stock
4 legs duck confit
6 ounces [170 g] pancetta or bacon, cut into batons
1 pound [455g] mild pork sausage links
4 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: 15 ounces [425g] tomato purée
How To Make
Prepare the beans. Rinse and drain white beans. In a large pot add beans. Attach the bay leaves to the whole onion with the whole clove and add with the garlic sausage, carrots, and fresh cracked pepper. With kitchen twine, add a bundle of the parsley and thyme. Add stock to cover by 2 inches [5cm], bring to a boil, lower heat to a low simmer. The gentle simmer will allow the beans to hold their shape, agitating them will break the skins. Cook until tender, about 2 hours. Remove from heat, discard onion with bay and clove and carrots. Remove sausage (save for breakfast tomorrow). Discard parsley and thyme. Strain beans from broth and reserve broth and beans separately; one bowl of beans, one bowl of broth.
Preheat oven to 350ºF [180ºC].
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the duck legs until skin crisps, about 6 minutes for each side. Transfer to a sheet pan.
To the same pot, add the pancetta or bacon to the rendered duck fat and cook until lightlly browned. Add to sheet pan.
To the same pot, add the sausage links, cook until gently browned on all sides. Add to sheet pan.
At medium-low heat, with four tablespoons of fat in the pot, add the diced onions and cook. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions are translucent, about ten minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. If using, add tomato purée and cook to reduce by half, 5 to 10 minutes. Add onion/garlic mixture to the bowl of beans and gently fold to mix.
Add one third on the bean mixture back to the Dutch oven. Arrange half of the assorted meat from the sheet pan over the beans. Add another third of beans, nestling the remaining meat. Top with remaining beans. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to come to the visible level of the beans without covering them completely. Use water or stock if there is not enough, reserve any remaining broth, you will add some during the time in the oven.
Bake in the oven for 2 hours checking every 30 minutes to add a bit of the reserved liquid over the top. You are looking to create a crusty top.