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by on November 13th, 2012

A Very Good Cassoulet

This was fantastic and so good on a cold winter night.

I was hoping to try this in France last Spring but there were so many other things to try and I had already made this a couple of times so it didn’t bother me that it wasn’t on my list of “tried things” while there.

Did you grow up (or still do) eating white beans in a bowl with a big chunk of corn bread on the side (please don’t say sweet cornbread) with maybe some chow chow to add to your beans. We did and they were the best beans you could possibly hope for at the time. A few years ago, my dad showed my husband how he had started making beans. He would soak the beans over night and then he would put the beans in a pot (he used a pressure cooker) with a couple of country style ribs (or backbone depending on where you live) and a ham hock.

Then along came Cassoulet (new to me). A word I had heard but never paid much attention to. I had never had the dish before our French Country Feast a few years ago. It was fantastic. A cassoulet is a stew made with white beans, sausage, duck confit, sometimes lamb, ham hocks and ham bone. Now, how could that not be an out of this world dish.

This recipe may take hours in the making but it will well be worth it in the end. I would either serve my mother’s cornbread recipe or a crusty French bread with this. There are so many recipes on the Internet for cassoulet and methods of making it. I would suggest reading a few before trying this recipe. In the end though, how can you mess up beans and a bunch of different kinds of meat. The end results will be great, no matter what you put in it.

BLAST FROM THE PASTFried Eggplant Chips with Honey Drizzle was an appetizer we had in Seville, Spain. Very delicious. I was excited to see that 2,600 people have looked at this recipe. Back in March I had 1,600 views — WOW. I really get excited when I think how many people just happen to find a recipe of mine through a google search.

Cut up any type of sausage into thin pieces.

Brown the sausages in a skillet. They will release a lot of their fat and start to caramelize.

Line your cooking dish with thick sliced bacon to cover the bottom.

Browned sausages and the duck confit ready to get layered.

Layered and ready to bake.

A Very Good Cassoulet

4 cups of dried great northern beans
4 fresh ham hocks (1 lb. each)
3 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
5 sprigs of thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 lb. fresh pork rind, cubed
1 ham bone, with some meat still left on it
1 Tbsp. duck fat
1 lb. unseasoned fresh pork sausage, cut into 2″pieces
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 3/4 cup)
confit of 1 quartered duck or 4 whole legs(see recipe posted earlier)*
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Rinse the beans thoroughly, pick through and discard stones or damaged beans; then set beans aside.

Place ham hocks in a large pot. Add 1 onion, thyme and salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for 2 hours. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 15 minutes,and then drain ham hocks, discarding onion and thyme. Cut meat from each hock into 2 pieces. Discard bones and set meat aside.

Place pork rind, ham bone and 1 onion in a large pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pork rind is rendered, about 20 minutes. Add beans and enough water to cover by 1/2″ (about 8 cups) and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Adjust salt if necessary and then set beans aside to cool.

Heat duck fat in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add sausages and cook, turning to brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Place garlic, remaining onion, and 1/2 cup water to a blender and puree until smooth. Add garlic paste to sausages and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook turning sausages occasionally, for 10 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 350. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard ham bone and onion from beans. It is OK if some pieces of onion remain. Remove the ham from the bone and add back to the pot.

Assemble cassoulet in layers: Line the baking dish with thick slices of bacon to cover the bottom. Place the meat from the ham hocks on the top of the beans and cover with sausages and garlic paste. Add a layer of the cooked beans. Tear up the duck meat and set aside. Arrange duck on top of beans, then spoon in remaining beans with pork rind. Season with nutmeg and add just enough reserved bean cooking liquid to cover the beans (about 3 cups). Reserve the remaining liquid. Bake uncovered until Cassoulet comes to a simmer and a crust begins to form, about 1 hour.

Reduce heat to 250 and cook for 2 hours, checking every hour or so to make sure Cassoulet is barely simmering (a little liquid should be bubbling around edges of cassoulet). If Cassoulet appears dry, break crust (browned top layer) by gently pushing it down with the back of a spoon allowing a new layer of beans to rise to the surface. Add just enough reserved bean cooking liquid or water to moisten beans.

Remove cassoulet from oven. Allow to cool completely,then cover with a lid or aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

Remove Cassoulet from refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 1 hour. When Cassoulet begins to simmer, break crust and add enough warm water to just cover beans (about 1 cup). Reduce heat to 250° and bake, breaking crust and adding water as needed for 1-2 hours. Remove cassoulet from oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Serve cassoulet from the pot, breaking the crust at the table.

*You can buy duck confit in a can if you don’t want to make it.

**Note: Most of the recipes I read called to layer the meats separately, ham, beans, sausage, beans, duck. I decided if I did that you may not get all the types of meats when you serve the dish. So, I would suggest that you mix the ham, sausage, and duck together when layering.

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