Cassoulet is a classic comfort food when it comes to French cooking. Slow cooked beans and meats are combined with a healthy dose of garlic to create the ultimate in comfort food. I’ve seen recipes that use entirely one meat or a combination of several. This recipe is based on one from William Sonoma but I’ve taken the liberty of adding duck to the combination of meat. Duck is commonly used as is pork or lamb and no cassoulet would be complete without the addition of garlicky Toulouse sausage. This may sound complicated but making a cassoulet is more time consuming than difficult. Think of the meats listed as suggestions and keeping the quantities the same, substitute whichever meats you can find. Or reduce the amount of meat you use while increasing the amount of beans.
But as I already mentioned, making a cassoulet takes time but I think of it as the perfect weekend cooking project. I’ll start by soaking and cooking the beans on Saturday then brown the meats on Sunday morning. Then all I have to do that afternoon is assemble the dish and pop it in the oven. Cassoulet is good out of the oven but I think it tastes even better the next day which is perfect since unless you are feeding a crowd, you are sure to have leftovers.
2 1/2 cups dried Great Northern beans
1 yellow onion pierced with 10 whole cloves
1 lb. thickly sliced bacon, finely diced
3/4 pound boneless leg of lamb
1 duck leg, about 1 pound
1 pound pork loin
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 pound Toulouse sausage
8 garlic cloves, minced
8 fresh parsley stems
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 cups fine dried bread crumbs
- Pick over the beans and discard any misshapen beans and stones. Rinse, place in a bowl and add water to cover generously. Let stand for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Drain and place in a saucepan with the onion and water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, until almost tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain, discarding the onion and reserving the liquid.
- Preheat an oven to 350°F.
- Place the duck leg in a large ovenproof stew pot. Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the fat has been rendered.
- Pour off the fat and reserve for another use. Remove the duck from the pot and set aside.
- Add the bacon to the pot and fry until it begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Reserve the drippings in the pot.
- Season the lamb and pork with salt and pepper and add to the stew pot along with the duck leg.
- Place in the oven and roast, basting occasionally with the bacon drippings, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
- Remove from the oven, let cool and cut the pork and lamb into 1-inch cubes. Remove the meat from the duck leg, cut into 1 inch cubes and discard the bones. Set all of the meat aside. Do not wash the pot.
- While the meat is roasting, prick the sausages with a fork. Place in a medium sized frying pan and add enough water to cover the sausages halfway.
- Simmer gently over medium high heat, turning once, until almost cooked through, about 12 minutes total.
- Drain the sausages and let cool before slicing on the diagonal.
- Place one-third of the drained beans in the reserved pot.
- Sprinkle with half of the bacon, lamb, pork, duck, sausage, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Using kitchen string, tie the parsley stems, thyme sprigs and bay leaves into a bundle. Add to the pot.
- Repeat the layers, using half of the remaining beans and all of the remaining meats, sausage and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and top with the remaining beans.
- In a bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 cups of the reserved bean liquid. Pour into the pot just to cover the beans.
- Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour; adding more bean liquid, if necessary, to prevent the beans from drying out.
- Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until golden, about 1 hour more.
- Discard the herb bundle and serve directly from the pot.