My friend Barb is a fellow foodie, and her husband Peter is no slouch when it comes to the kitchen either. They invited Roger and me over for dinner recently on a very cold winter day. It had snowed the day before, and I actually had to put boots on for the first time this winter. As I was taking off my boots in their foyer, I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful aroma wafting in from the kitchen. Talk about giving your salivary glands a workout!
Peter had spent the day preparing this classic French dish, once considered peasant food. Even though it’s been on my bucket list for a long time, I had never had homemade cassoulet before. What a treat it was for me as I am a major fan of any dish with cooked beans in it—not to mention all the other delicious ingredients in it including duck, sausage, pork, bacon, chicken and lamb. Yum!
Now, once again in full disclosure, this is not a quick and easy meal to make. It is definitely time-consuming and labor-intensive. Pick a day when you have the time and enthusiasm to make this comfort casserole. You won’t be sorry! It makes a lot, so even if you invite people over for dinner you’ll still have leftovers to enjoy which means a night (or two) off from further cooking!
Roger and I were the happy recipients of some of the leftovers so I was able to snap a photo for you. It is cold weather comfort food at its best!
One year ago: Potato and Sausage Mini Frittatas
Ingredients for the Bean Mixture
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 2 quarts water
- 2 pounds (about 4 cups) dried white beans, picked over, soaked in water to cover by 2 inches overnight, and drained
- a 1/2 pound piece salt pork, simmered in water to cover for 15 minutes and drained
- 1 pound smoked pork sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 onions, halved lengthwise
- 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and left whole
- 1 tsp. crumbled dried thyme
- 1 bouquet garni composed of 4 parsley sprigs, 3 celery tops, the white and pale green part of one leek, and 2 bay leaves, tied in a cheesecloth bag
- 5 slices lean bacon, chopped fine
- 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 pound boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 tbl. finely minced garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 (28-ounce) can of plum tomatoes, drained, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice, and chopped
- 1 (4-pound) duck, cut into 8 pieces
- about 3 cups fine dry bread crumbs
Make the bean mixture:
In a large heavy kettle combine the broth and the water and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the beans, the salt pork, and the sausage and bring liquid to a boil, skimming the froth.
Stir in the onions, the garlic, the thyme, the bouquet garni, and pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the beans are tender.
Discard the salt pork, the onions, and the bouquet garni, strain the mixture through a colander set over a large bowl, and in separate bowls reserve the bean mixture and the broth. (the bean mixture and the broth can be made a day in advance and kept covered and chilled).
In a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp and transfer it with tongs to paper towels to drain.
In the fat remaining in the skillet brown the pork and the lamb over moderate high heat, turning the pieces once, for 8 minutes and transfer the meat with a slotted spoon to a large casserole.
In the fat remaining in the skillet cook the onion, the celery, and the garlic with salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.
Stir in the wine and boil the mixture until reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes with reserved liquid and bacon and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to casserole and braise it, covered, in a preheated 325o F oven for 1 hour.
Arrange the duck pieces, skin side down, on a rack in a roasting pan and broil them under a preheated broiler about 4 inches from the heat for 10 minutes. Turn the duck pieces and broil them 10 minutes more, or until the juices run clear and the meat is cooked through. Transfer the duck with tongs to a cutting board and reserve 1/4 cup of the duck fat.
In a 6-quart casserole layer one-third of the reserved bean mixture, half the braised meat mixture, 4 pieces of duck, half the remaining bean mixture, the remaining braised meat mixture, the remaining duck pieces, and the remaining bean mixture.
Pour 6 cups of the reserved broth, skimmed of any fat, slowly over the mixture, sprinkle the top with 2 cups of bread crumbs, and drizzle it with 2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat.
Bake the cassoulet, uncovered, in the middle of a preheated 325o F oven for 30 minutes. Press the crumb layer lightly into the cassoulet, top it with the remaining 1 cup of crumbs, and drizzle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of duck fat.
Bake the cassoulet for 1 3/4 hours more, or until the crust is golden brown.