Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cassoulet – The World’s Most Complex Simple Recipe

There are so many reasons not to make cassoulet. You need lots of ingredients, some of which take effort to find. There are many steps, and even some of the steps have steps. It will also seem like you used every pot and pan in the kitchen, which will be trashed by the time you’re done.

Speaking of time, this is going to take hours to cook, but only after lots of prep. You still with me? So, why would anyone go through all that? That’s easy. Cassoulet is one of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever have. Plus, it’s great for honing your observational skills, since no two cassoulet are the same, and the times I give are only a guide.

If you use a different bean, or more/less meat, or a different size/shape pan or casserole, you may need to add liquid sooner than two hours in. Basically, just keep and eye on things, adding broth when needed, until you’re happy with the final results.

Depending on how salty your meats are, as well as how highly seasoned you stock is, you may or may not need to add more salt to the final mixture. Other than that, and notwithstanding all that stuff I said earlier in the post, this really is a simple recipe. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions (I used a 12-inch pan, about 3-inches deep):

For the beans and cooking liquid:
3 quarts seasoned chicken stock or broth (The beans should be cooked in a lightly seasoned stock or broth, so add salt to taste. I didn’t add any on camera as mine was already seasoned.)
1 pound Tarbais beans, or other white beans, soaked overnight
4 ounces ham, bacon, salt pork, or pancetta, cut in 1/4-inch dice (as I mentioned, I experimented with large pieces, but it was too much)
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorn, 6 springs thyme, 6 unpeeled garlic cloves cut in half, tied in cheesecloth)
- add reserved bones from your duck and pork if available
-- simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are almost tender
--- strain and reserve liquid

The other meat:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12 ounces fresh pork shoulder or chop, cut into 2-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds (4 links) Toulouse sausages, or other garlic pork sausage
2 duck leg confit (most fancy grocery stores carry this, but you can order online, or make your own with this old recipe)
NOTE: This is traditionally a "poor man's" dish, and would not have nearly the generous supply of rich meats. So, if you want something more authentic, you can cut the meat amounts down by half at least. 

The veggies:
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon salt

The crumb topping:
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup cooking liquid
(warning, I don’t measure this stuff, so just add enough melted fat to moisten the crumbs until they look like damp sand)

- Bake for 2 hours at 350 F for 2 hours, or until most of the broth is absorbed.
- Add more broth, poking down a little of the crust into the beans.
- Bake for another 45 minutes, or until well-browned, and the meat is fork tender


crowing said...

Just noticed that you've posted Cassoulet 3 times now! Is this the definitive recipe?

Unknown said...

Awesome, thanks for this. Can't wait to try it. One question: "1/4 tomato paste"... 1/4 what? Sorry if you mention it in the video.

Chase Saunders said...

No one has ever made me want to make this before. Thanks so much!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Wow!This looks sooo great! I may have to mail order some ingredients, but I cant wait to try it! YUM!

Toshiko Suisei said...

Dear Chef John, When I was little I watched the musical Gigi on a classic movie channel. Dashing, very rich Gaston stopped by a family friend's house to say hello and asked middle-class Grandmama what she was cooking and she said, "Oh, just a cassoulet..." and Gaston looked into the pot with longing. She invited him to stay but he said no at first because he had some fancy rich dinner restaurant plans. Then he instantly changed his mind and stayed! hehe

I have never tried cassoulet but I have always wanted to since then - And I will! Thanks ^^

Unknown said...

I noticed that in the video you put regular cloves (not *garlic* cloves) in the herb mix, but they don't appear in the ingredient list!

would like to know if that's on purpose or by mistake.

Other than that - great stuff as alwaees!

Pyrofish said...

I made Cassoulet from one of you other videos for Thanksgiving one year. Everyone wanted the recipe and still asks if we plan to make it for the next get together. I love the stuff, and can't understand how it's not more well known here in the US. I saw it on a show about 6 years ago and started researching it. I've since made several versions. It's one of those things that so comforting and wonderful. It also falls neatly into my desire to make things you don't see in restaurants because they are too time consuming for tight-margin business models. Definitely worth the effort! Now I need find a good time to make this one!

Unknown said...

What type and size of cast iron pan did you use? Would a Lodge 12" suffice?

beemo said...

Oh yes I will make this this coming spring during a daylong rain. Actually it was that rainy-day suggestion that clinched it for me. (And yes I am quite sure I can make the duck confit; I succeeded months ago at making your version of duck rillettes)

PS I'm getting fat and it's Chef John's fault

Dan and Hilary said...

Second to other fellow foodwishes to have tried your other recipes for this dish.

Any reason (not that I'm complaining, in fact I'm trying this version tomorrow) for the reshoot?

You. Are. The man.

Unknown said...

I've made a few cassoulets, my only sin being in trying to tweak the fat levels down (difficult to do and to still retain the great taste).

But I am curious about the various methods. I noticed you cook the beans separately, then add them to the meat for more cooking. Others cook the meat and beans at the same time. Does it make a difference?

Unknown said...

Where to find beans and sausage????

Unknown said...

GREAT RECIPE. Admittedly I made my 'lowerfat' version but using all of Chef John's method, and it was SO GOOD. I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, garlic chicken sausages, center cut pork loin, and turkey bacon. And I used dried cannellini beans.

To the commercial chicken broth, I added all of Chef Johns items (including chicken thigh bones) PLUS I amped it up with a quick homemade chicken broth (defatted). I also added half an onion stuck with whole cloves, along with 8 unpeeled garlic cloves.

The crust browned faster than I expected (likely I needed to wet it more with chicken stock) BUT the dish was GREAT! The next day, even better.

The full fat version must be out of this world.

I can't wait to make it again.

qwerty3729 said...

Hey Chef, we have the same dinner plates as you. Just wish the food in our plates was as good as your probably is.

breckandy said...

Looks awesome but try going to your local Safeway, Publix or Ralphs and ask for these items

Tarbais beans
Toulouse sausages
2 duck leg confit
rendered duck fat

Ginny said...

I made this yesterday and it was a stupendous success! I found tarbais beans from ranchogordo.com for only $7-8 a lb as opposed to the $30 something a lb for the real French beans. We have a local butcher who created sausage from three toulouse recipe. Also, I used chicken confit, turkey broth, and shmaltz instead of duck. I feel like these adjustments made it closer to the more humble meal that it is in France. It was the most comforting, delicious thing ever for a cold February night. Thank you, chef John, for demystifying this awesome recipe!

Unknown said...

I, too, had leftover roast chicken leg, thigh and breast and had saved the rendered schmalz. These were a good substitute for the duck confit and contributed to a tasty cassoulet. Other meats were kielbasa, bacon and pork shoulder. I also used 2 cans of cannellini beans (drained and washed) and homemade roast chicken broth. I made homemade bread crumbs with crusts from my own french boule bread in my food processor. These sopped up all the fat beautifully. Wow, what a wonderful dish. Someday I will do it with real duck confit!