Source: Fine Cooking #103 (also at FineCooking.com)
My homemade duck confit having cured for 4 weeks, it was time to tackle my cassoulet. Cassoulet is a traditional southern French casserole that combines several meats with white beans. Different regional versions exist… this one combines duck confit, braised pork shoulder and sausage.
Cassoulet is simple in technique but is quite time-consuming. However, each component can be prepared in advance, so that on cassoulet day you just need to assemble and bake.
The adventure started, of course, 4 weeks ago with the duck confit.
On Friday (2 days ago), I started soaking the beans in the morning and cooked them in the evening.
Yesterday, I braised the pork, cooked the vegetables and made the tomato sauce.
The final sprint requires as few hours, but that’s mostly cooking time. The sausages are browned and a few final ingredients are prepped. Half of the beans, vegetables and tomato sauce are spread in an even layer in a large casserole dish or roasting pan. The 3 meats are placed in a layer on the beans, and the rest of the beans, vegetables and tomato sauce are layered on top. The broth from the braised pork is added, along with bean-cooking liquid until it comes to just below the top layer of beans.
After baking for 45 minutes, the breadcrumbs are added and cooked for another 45 minutes. After letting it cool for another 45 minutes, the cassoulet is ready to enjoy.
So was the ordeal worth it? Definitely. While the final dish doesn’t look particularly elegant (in fact, it looks quite simple and rustic), it packs a lot of flavour. The benefit of cooking all the components separately is that they keep their individual flavours. You get a bite of duck, then pork and then sausage. Thanks to pre-soaking, the white beans are tender but still toothy. And everything is deliciously juicy from the pork and bean broths.
This is a fantastic dish that makes lots of leftovers. And when done step-by-step, it’s not that much work.