Pared-down cassoulet

Pared-down cassoulet - Primary Beans

 

Deceptively known as “peasant fare” in France, cassoulet is as technical as it gets when it comes to beans. Beans are the backbone of this dish and work their magic by absorbing the many savory and garlicky flavors as they cook. This recipe was adapted from NYT Cooking's Melissa Clark, in "The New Essentials of French Cooking," where she expertly instructs home cooks how to tackle the cassoulet. Here, we pare down the meats involved because, um, 4 different types is plenty? Call it a faux cassoulet, if you will. We think it’s delicious.

Which beans to use? Nutty white beans work well here. Try our Michelet, Cannellini, or Ayocote Blanco

 

The details

  • Serves: 8-10 hungry eaters
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Cookware: Large rimmed baking sheet, large sauté pan or skillet, largest Dutch oven or deep casserole dish you own, bean cooking vessle of your choice

 

What you’ll need

The beans

  • 1 lb dried beans (makes ~7 cups cooked)
  • Flavor with: 8 oz pancetta, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 bouquet garni (what's this? see our FAQs), 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 2 garlic cloves, ½ white or yellow onion, 2 whole cloves (pierced in the onion), 1-½ tsp coarse salt

    The meat

    • 4 lbs bone-in pork stew meat, bone-in lamb stew meat, or a combination
    • 2-½ tsp coarse salt
    • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 9 garlic cloves, peeled, plus 3 minced garlic cloves
    • ⅛ tsp ground cloves
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 sprigs rosemary
    • 2 sprigs thyme
    • ½ cup duck fat or lard, or a combination

    The rest

    • 5 tbsp olive oil, divided 
    • 1 lb fresh pork sausages (ideally Toulouse)
    • 2 medium white or yellow onions, diced
    • 2 large carrots, diced
    • 2 celery stalks, diced
    • 9 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 
    • 1-½ cups panko bread crumbs 

      Steps

      Marinate the meat(s): Combine all ingredients except the fat and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.

      Roast the meat(s): Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and add meat. Melt fat and pour over meat. Mix to combine and spread meat in one even layer. Roast until browned, about 1 hour. Turn pieces, cover with foil, and continue to roast until soft, another 1-½ hours. Remove meat and reserve fat and browned bits.

      Make the beans: Meanwhile, add pancetta and olive oil to bean cooking vessel of your choice and cook on low until fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and once cooled, dice and set aside. Cook beans according to our guide. Once beans are cooked, fold in pancetta and set aside. 

      Cook the sausage: Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add sausages. Cook until well browned on all sides, about 20 minutes. Set aside, leaving any sausage fat in skillet.

      Prepare the vegetable/bean mixture: Once meat is done roasting, in the same sauté pan or skillet, add 2-3 tbsp of reserved fat from roasted meat. Add onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, ~10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another few minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer until thickened, 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, strain beans, reserving bean broth, and stir beans into the vegetable mixture to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt to taste.

      Assemble the cassoulet: Heat oven to 365 degrees. Grease Dutch oven or casserole dish with some of the reserved fat, add about a third of beans and spread evenly. Top with half of roasted meat and half of cooked sausage. Add another third of beans, and top with remaining meat and sausages. Top with remaining beans, spreading them to the edges and covering the meat. Slowly pour reserved bean broth on top so that it seeps through the layers, stopping when liquid comes to the top layer of beans but does not cover them. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with remaining 4 tbsp olive oil.

      Cook the cassoulet (and nurse that crust!): Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Use a large spoon to slightly crack the crust so the liquid bubbles up. Use the spoon to drizzle bean liquid all over the top of the crust. Return to oven and bake 1 hour longer, cracking the crust and drizzling with bean liquid every 20 minutes, until the crust is well browned and liquid is bubbling. The total baking time should be ~1-1⁄2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

       

      We imagine this with…

      Hearty, tannic red wine. Period.

       

      Recipe slightly adapted from NYT Cooking's "The New Essentials of French Cooking" by Melissa Cark. The full story is available here.

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