Cassoulet does not need to be difficult to taste great. Starting with a recipe from Tante Marie’s Cooking School Cookbook, I have developed a Cassoulet recipe that I dare say, is easy!
Mind you, it will take a while, good things always do, but if you go slowly, don’t rush the recipe and give yourself plenty of time (like a rainy Sunday in March!), you will surely find success.
First off, you must assemble a couple key kitchen gadgets:
- Le Crueset, or other heavy pot, preferably enamel, 5 quarts or larger
- Pressure cooker (this is actually key in my recipe, but if you don’t have one, you can get by)
- Large strainer, preferably like the one pictured above
- Mini Cuisinart or immersion blender with chopping bowl
- Cheesecloth and string, or silicon rubberband
Cassoulet with white beans, sausage and duck confit
adapted from Tante Marie’s Cooking School Cookbook
- 2 pounds white beans
- 1/2 pound bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 coarsely chopped onions (divided) + 1 onion, chopped
- 4 smashed garlic cloves (divided) + 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- Bouquet garni with 4 sprigs of parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 pound pork sausage, pricked all over with a fork
- 4 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 whole confit of duck, cut into pieces (see notes below)
- 1 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs
To start off, you need to cook the beans. I do this in two batches, because that is all my pressure cooker will hold.
First batch of beans – into the pressure cooker, add 1 pound of beans, 1 tablespoon of oil, bacon, 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 smashed garlic cloves, bouquet garni, and 1 quart of chicken stock. Seal lid, and bring pot to pressure over high heat. When it has reached full pressure, turn down heat slightly, and set timer for 25 minutes. When the time is up, turn off heat and allow pressure to come down naturally, 15-20 minutes. If you can, leave beans in liquid a little longer. When ready, drain beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Put cooked beans into bowl, along with onions, garlic and bacon. Remove and discard bouquet garni.
Second batch of beans – into the pressure cooker, add remaining 1 pound of beans, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 smashed garlic cloves, and 1 quart of chicken stock. Seal lid, and bring pot to pressure over high heat. When it has reached full pressure, turn down heat slightly, and set timer for 25 minutes. When the time is up, turn off heat and allow pressure to come down naturally, 15-20 minutes. If you can, leave beans in liquid a little longer. When ready, drain beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Put cooked beans into bowl, along with first batch of beans.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, then soak the beans overnight in water to cover. When ready to cook, drain the beans and put in Le Crueset or other heavy casserole, along with bacon, onions, garlic, bouquet garni and chicken stock. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Discard onions and bouquet garni.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausages in 1/4 cup of water, until they are browned all over. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove sausages to plate to rest.
In same pan, heat 2 tablespoons bacon fat and sauté onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic, sauté another minute. Add in white wine and cook another minute. Stir in tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook additional 5 minutes.
To assemble the cassoulet – Slice sausage into 1-inch chunks. Layer 1/3 of the beans on the bottom of the Le Crueset. Nestle in half of the duck and half of the sausage. Cover with half of the tomato mixture. Repeat with another 1/3 of the beans, and the remaining sausage and duck confit. Cover with the rest of the tomatoes and the remaining beans. Season the bean liquid well, then pour enough bean liquid into the pot to come up just to the top of the beans. Cover entire cassoulet with bread crumbs and dot with remaining bacon fat.
Bake in 350F oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, until top is crusty and brown. You can break through the crust several times during cooking, which will allow the juices to help form the crust.
This recipe serves 10, depending on appetites and what else you are serving. I like to serve with a green salad and fresh bread.
Duck confit – my local butcher sells duck confit in packages of two leg/thigh sections. I like to have one piece of duck for each person I am serving, so for 4 people, one package works well. I separate the leg and thighs. If I have more people, I will add another package.
Bouquet Garni – to make a bouquet garni, take the parsley, the thyme and the bay leaves, and either wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth, sealed with a knot, or wrap with a silicon rubberband.
I prefer to use my pressure cooker for this, as I like the speed in which beans are cooked. I also find that I can make a very intensely flavored bean broth, which works nicely for this dish. Leftovers can be stored for another soup, another time.