Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.
Beloved by generations of French cooks, cassoulet is a rustic, slow-cooked dish made with white beans and a lavish assortment of meats, from duck confit* or foie gras to sausages and succulent cuts of pork, lamb or poultry.
The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides.
Numerous regional variations exist, the best-known being the cassoulet from Castelnaudary, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Cassoulet”, Toulouse, and Carcassonne. All are made with white beans (haricots blancs or lingots), which have replaced the medieval broad bean Vica fava, and duck or goose confit, meat and sausages.
In the cassoulet of Toulouse, the meats are pork and mutton, the latter frequently a cold roast shoulder. The Carcassonne version is similar but doubles the portion of mutton and sometimes replaces the duck with partridge. The cassoulet of Castelnaudary uses a duck confit instead of mutton. Cassoulet is traditionally topped by fried bread cubes and cracklings. (Wikipedia)
The following recipe is adapted from Guy Fieri’s “pork-oulet” (you can watch the episode at hulu.com), though I put in more celery, carrots and yellow onion than the original recipe asked for. Somehow I manages to miss getting a pictures of the chicken thighs browning, but you’ll get the idea!
I made this recipe last night and, seriously…it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Incredibly rich and savory, layer after layer of flavors, big hunks of spoon-tender meat and veggies…this cold-weather comfort food at it’s best!
Tip: When buying your herbs, look for the “pork mix” package of fresh herbs. The one I found contained almost the perfect proportions of thyme, sage, and oregano, that this recipe calls for. Also, be careful not to add salt until the dish is ready to serve. Both the bacon and chicken stock (if canned) can be wild cards for saltiness, especially after cooking down. Test the broth just before serving and adjust accordingly.
Pork & Chicken Cassoulet
1/2 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 pounds pork butt, cut into 2-inch by 3-inch pieces
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin discarded
3 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 lg sweet onion, chopped large
2 cups peeled baby carrots
1 cup (1/2-inch) diced celery
1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 lb button mushrooms, scrubbed
4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
In a pre-heated cast iron Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook until just crisp. Remove from the pot and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.
Season the pork and the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the pork pieces to the bacon fat and brown on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside on a large plate. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown evenly, then remove and add to the plate with the pork.
Add the onion, carrots and celery into the pot and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then add in the stock, bay leaves, thyme, oregano and sage and combine well.
Put the pork and chicken pieces into the sauce and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is fork tender, about 2 hours.
Add in the cannellini beans and mushrooms and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and serve hot with warm crusty baguette, or over rice.
PS – If you don’t have a cassoulet pot, here’s a fantastic deal on a Lodge enameled coated cast-iron 6-Quart Dutch Oven.
*Confit (con-fee) is a term for various kinds of cooked meats that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a speciality of southwestern France.