Nothing beats a homemade cassoulet on a cold winters night! Mmmmmmm, yes. Tons has been written about cassoulets, so let’s get to the particulars. A classic French cassoulet is a rich, slow cooked dish of dried white French haricot beans, goose, salt pork, Toulouse sausages, and topped with bread crumbs. The name cassoulet refers to the traditional earthen ware vessel it is cooked in, a cassole. Every town in South West France seems to have their own version of this dish. In Gascony for example they insist on no cured meats, no bread crumbs, and no lamb in a true cassoulet. Other areas include varying amounts of pork, Lamb, and cured meats. I defer as always to in my humble opinion a culinary goddess the late, great Ms. Jane Grigson author of the definitive, classic tome “The Art of making Sausages, Pates, and other Charcuterie”. The basic recipe is:
1 lb. Haricot beans
A good size piece of pork skin, cut into squares
A knuckle of Pork
1 lb. salt sowbelly
1 large onion stuck with 4 cloves
4 cloves of garlic
PORK and GOOSE RAGOUT
1 lb. boned shoulder of pork
2 lbs. Goose or Duck confit
3 large onions
6 cloves of garlic
4 large tomatoes, skinned
2 Tbl spoons tomato paste
1 lb. Toulouse sausages
1 lb. Saucisson a L’ail (garlic sausage)
The thing people tend to forget about cassoulets is that this is a peasent dish, so you shouldn’t go too crazy about the ingredients. That being said…I’ve been waiting all year to make this dish! I used my own Goose and Duck confit that’s been curing in my fridge since last fall. I know, you are saying a year old confit? I thawed the frozen Goose confit, which came out fine, and I pulled the Duck confit out of the fat and all looked and tasted awesome.
More on that later. While the beans have been soaked and are cooking prepare the pork and goose ragout.
Chop and saute the onions
Cut the pork into bite sized pieces and brown
Pour off any excess fat
Add sliced pork skins
Add the skinned tomatoes (chopped into chunks)
Add 1/2 cup of beef stock
*I used some frozen duck stock I’d been saving
Add the tomato paste and Bouquet garni
Continue cooking the Pork in this mixture
Cover the pan and let it bubble until the beans are ready
*Mean while I heated the goose and duck confit in the oven
I told you the confit was fine! I then browned the sausage. I used fresh Italian sausage. I had ordered Toulouse sausage online but forgot to thaw it out so I improvised.
When the beans have finished cooking, drain them and remove the onion, carrot, and Bouquet garni. Remove and slice the knuckle bone and salt pork. FYI, I also used my own home cured pork belly for the salt pork.
I got my pork skin from a Korean grocery store. It didn’t have any fat on it just skin…
The pork skins and other ingredients should be cooked along with beans until they are nice and soft, about an 1 1/2 hours
Line the pot with the prepared pork skins. I used 3 Ramekin-souffle dishes. I loosely shredded the confit meat and sliced the sausages so they could be more easily distributed in the pots.
Before putting everthing together, be sure and toast and season your bread crumbs.
I DID use store bought Panko bread crumbs. Toasted them in a little country butter and seasoned them to taste. Now, it’s time to assemble the dish for the final cooking. the final cooking is to blend all of the flavors together gently, without the meat becoming overcooked, stringy and tasteless.
Put half of the beans in the pot
Top the beans with the Pork and Goose ragout.
Add some of the sliced, browned sausage
Add the rest of the beans
Add about half a cup of the bean cooking liquid and finish with a 1/2 inch layer of bread crumbs dotted with pieces of goose or duck fat. If the cassoulet get too dry, add some more of the bean cooking liquid…But, not too much.
Cook slowly in the oven at 320 degrees for 1 1/2 hours
The crust should be a golden brown!
Traditionally you should push down the crust seven or eight times so the crust can reform, each time adding a little more bread crumbs, but…I didn’t do that. Why? Cause I just didn’t feel like it! Maybe next time.
In the end the quantities of each ingredient may be varied to your liking, but the essentials are beans, sausages, pork, and goose…Or, Lamb, pork, and or duck…Or, you get the point. I gave a pot of my cassoulet to my friend Michelle in the makeup trailer at work and she told me it was the best cassoulet she’d ever tasted, and she’s traveled and sampled cassoulets all across France. I consider this high praise indeed! Merci Michelle!
*Again, a great breakfast is a small bowl of warmed up cassoulet topped with a poached egg! HELLLOOOOOOOO