My Recipe Box

Cassoulet

RATE IT

Serves 6

  • Make the menu:
    A Hearty Cassoulet Supper
  • by Jean-Pierre Moullé from Fine Cooking
    Issue 48

This recipe serves six generously, and it’s easily doubled if you want to make more (leftovers are delicious). If you don’t have the traditional deep earthenware casserole, use a 5-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or a ceramic soufflé dish -- the vessel needs to be wide enough for a crust to form. For pork rind, order it or buy salt pork and cut the rind off, freezing the salt pork for another use.

For the bean stew
  • 1 lb. dry white beans, such as cannelini or Great Northern
  • 1 pig’s foot or 1 small fresh ham hock
  • 3/4 lb. pork belly or pancetta
  • 1/2 lb. pork rind
  • 1 medium carrot, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and halved, each half studded with 1 whole clove
  • 1/2 tomato, peeled and seeded, or 1/2 cup canned whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 rib celery, halved
  • 1/2 head garlic, halved across the top
  • 1 bay leaf, several sprigs of fresh thyme, and several parsley stems, tied together in a bouquet
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the lamb stew
  • 1 lb. boneless lamb shoulder, neck, or shank meat (about 2 lb. on the bone)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup duck fat or olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups canned whole tomatoes, lightly squeezed
  • 1 bay leaf, several sprigs of fresh thyme, and several parsley stems, tied together in a bouquet
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth or duck stock
For the cassoulet
  • 1/4 cup duck fat or olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. garlic sausage or sweet Italian sausage that’s not seasoned with fennel
  • 3 to 4 duck confit legs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Bean stew
  • Lamb stew
  • 2 cups coarse, unseasoned breadcrumbs, toasted, preferably from a baguette
  • Extra chicken broth or duck stock for moistening the cassoulet during baking, if needed
Tip:
Duck fat and confit duck legs are available at www.dartagnan.com, or you can make your own duck confit

Make the bean stew: Soak the beans overnight in enough cold water to cover them well. Drain, rinse, and pick through them for stones and damaged beans. In a large saucepan, cover the pig’s foot or ham hock, pork belly or pancetta, and pork rind with cold water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 3 minutes, drain, and rinse in cold water. Reserve. In a large saucepan, cover the beans with lukewarm water. Bring to a boil, drain, and return to the pan. Cover with hot water. Add the carrots, onion, tomato, celery, garlic, and herb bouquet. Bring to a boil, add the reserved pig’s foot or ham hock, pork belly or pancetta, and pork rind. Simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 hours, until completely tender (don’t add salt yet). Transfer to a large pan to cool and reserve the beans in their cooking liquid. Remove the carrot, onion, and herb bouquet; discard. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed, but be prudent, as the pork parts add a good bit of salty flavor.

Cassoulet Recipe

Meanwhile, make the lamb stew: Cut the lamb into 2-1/2-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat or heat the oil. Sear the lamb pieces until well browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the carrot and onion, lower the heat to medium, and cover the pan. Sweat the vegetables until tender but not browned, about 6 minutes. Raise the heat, add the white wine, and boil, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the reserved lamb and any juices, the tomatoes, herb bouquet, garlic, and broth or stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour, skimming off the fat and froth as needed. Discard the herb bouquet and reserve the lamb stew until it’s time to assemble the cassoulet.

Cassoulet Recipe

Assemble the cassoulet: Heat the oven to 250°F. In a medium-size sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat half of the duck fat or olive oil. Add the sausage and brown it on all sides. When cool enough to handle, cut it into six pieces.

Cassoulet Recipe

Cut the duck confit legs in half at the joint. Rub the garlic clove over the inside of an earthenware casserole, an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, or a large ceramic soufflé mold. Retrieve the pig’s foot or ham hock, pork rind, and pork belly or pancetta from the bean stew. Discard the pig’s foot or ham hock bones. (If you’ve used a ham hock, tear off any remaining meat and add it to the bean stew.) Cut the pork belly or pancetta into 1/2-inch pieces and reserve. Cut the pork rind into 1/2-inch pieces and scatter them over the bottom of the dish.

Cassoulet Recipe

With a slotted spoon, transfer one-third of the beans to the dish. Do the same with half the pork belly or pancetta, all of the duck confit, half the lamb stew (again, use a slotted spoon, because you’ll be using the cooking liquid later), and all of the sausage. Cover the meats with another one-third of beans, the remaining pork belly and lamb stew, and finish with the last one-third of beans. Combine the bean juices with the lamb sauce, taste for seasoning (remembering that the duck confit is salty), and pour just enough over the dish to barely cover the beans.

Sprinkle the dish with the breadcrumbs and drizzle the remaining duck fat (melt it first if it’s still solid) or olive oil over the breadcrumbs. Bake for 2-1/2 hours and then raise the heat to 350°F and bake until the crust is a rich golden brown and the cassoulet is bubbling around the edges, about another 30 minutes. Check the cassoulet during baking -- if it’s getting too dry, add more broth or stock; if the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil. Let the cassoulet rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Bring the entire dish to the table and serve each guest some crust, beans, and pieces of the different meats.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 1210; Fat (g): 74; Fat Calories (kcal): 670; Saturated Fat (g): 27; Protein (g): 62; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 34; Carbohydrates (g): 72; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 9; Sodium (mg): 1320; Cholesterol (mg): 175; Fiber (g): 14;

Photo: France Ruffenach

There are simpler, more "streamlined" versions of cassoulet out there, but I'm with the other reviewers -- this one is well worth the effort! It's become a Christmas Eve tradition in our house. I follow the recipe to the letter and it never fails to impress. And I love the fact that everything can be done in stages and days ahead of time, which makes for stress-free entertaining. Note that quality of the dried beans is important -- I've had good luck with Italian butter beans or gigante, purchased at the farmer's market -- you want a bean that will maintain its integrity through all the hours of cooking and not break down into mush. I've found the larger varieties better in this regard.

I make this during the winter holidays every year. While not complex, it is a multi-day affair that requires a bit of advanced planning (and ordering of special items such as the ham hock and pork rind). But the end result is SOOOO worth the effort. Absolutely one of my favourite dishes, particularly on a cold winter day. I always end up with more of the different stews than will fit in my my large stockpot, so we also fill a couple of small disposable baking tins which are put in the freezer for a later day. Can't recommend this one enough, if you have the time and inclination.

I have made this recipe twice and consider it one of my favorite winter French dishes. It is better made and rewarmed so it is perfect for a dinner for special friends. The ingredients, such as the right beans and the pork rind, are well worth seeking out for the right taste and texture.

header

MEET THE CHEFS FROM SEASON ONE

Cookbooks, DVDs & More