“CASSOULET…that sumptuous amalgamation of haricot beans, sausage, pork, mutton and preserved goose, aromatically spiced with garlic and herbs, is cooked at great length in an earthenware pot, emerging with a golden crust which conceals an interior of gently bubbling, creamy beans and uniquely savory meats.” Elizabeth David – French Provincial Cooking 1960
If there was ever a time for a cassoulet, this has to be it! A huge snowstorm is sweeping across the nation, everyone is riveted by the news from Egypt and I have leftover duck and roast pork in the freezer from the holidays. If you are thinking what I'm thinking you are absolutely correct....it's time for a cassoulet!
Part of the problem of making an authentic cassoulet is having the time to sit around and watch the pot so you can add stuff and stir the beans. The other is all the components that have to be cooked and added. That is when planning ahead comes in.
Cassoulet is a country dish that takes advantage of leftovers, remember that. You will never have a great cassoulet at a fancy restaurant; but you will have an unforgettable one at a French country house. If you go out and buy all the ingredients to make one, it can be an expensive proposition. I have been planning and freezing for over a month and now I have everything I need already cooked and ready to go in the pot. That will save me half the time it would take if I had started from scratch.
Over the holidays we had roast duck and the broth and leftover legs were frozen. Same with the leftover roast pork we had for New Year's Day. This past weekend, I cooked a small leg of lamb which ,though unnecessary at this point, will make for a nice addition. All I will need now is to soak the beans overnight and make the cassoulet on a day, like today, when it's too cold or snowy to go outside. If you get a good news day like today, consider it a bonus.
I use the frozen duck broth to cook the beans in and after defrosting the cooked duck legs, pork and lamb, add them to the casserole. It saves quite a lot of time and minimizes the mess in the kitchen, That, to me, is quite an accomplishment!
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 lb dried white beans (preferably Great Northern)
1/2 lbs bacon
1/2 lbs. fresh pork rind
2 carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise
4 onions, 1 stuck with 2 cloves and 3 onions chopped
5 garlic cloves crushed
1 bouquet garni, parsley, thyme and bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 lb lamb shoulder
1/4 lbs. pork loin or shoulder
1 lbs French garlic sausage or kielbasa
2 shallots, chopped
2 - 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 TB tomato paste
3 pieces duck confit (or duck legs)
Fresh bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Soak and cook beans:
Cover beans with cold water by 2 inches in a large bowl and soak 8 to 12 hours. Drain in a colander.
Return the beans to pot and add bacon, bacon rind, carrot, onion stuck with clovers, 1 garlic clove, bouquet garni, and water (or duck stock) and cover by two inches. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce to low, cooking 1/2 to 2 hour until done and seasoning with salt and pepper.
In a casserole, or casole, melt 2 TB butter, add lamb, pork and duck. Stir sausages, chopped onions, shallots and remaining 2 garlic cloves. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, season with salt and pepper. Add enough bean broth to cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for 1 hour. If the pork and lamb have been previously cooked, only do so for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Drain beans reserving broth. Remove carrots, bouquet garni, onion with cloves and discard. In a large gratin dish, spread half pork rind,. Layer half the beans, half the meats and confit or duck. Repeat the layers , finishing with bacon, pork rind and sausages. Moisten with some of the reserved bean broth, sprinkle with fresh bread crumbs and remaining 2 TB butter. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
I would serve this for lunch accompanied by a salad and a bagette. A red French wine from Languedoc would go well with this recipe.
Recipe adapted from Francoise Bernard
Photo David Leibowits