Lets’s Eat by Charles Oppman
Now that we’re in the cold weather months it is good time for a hearty country dish. Why not make a classic bean dish―cassoulet? Cassoulet is a rib-stickin’, 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. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware casserole dish. I made cassoulet the other day with northern beans. I made it in an ultra-heavy cast iron Dutch oven I found at a Salvation Army for like $5. I cooked it on the stove top, but could have baked it, which I considered doing because I was thinking about whipping up a batch of corn bread as well, the perfect quick bread for this dish. I vary the meat when I make cassoulet, but this time I used smoked sausage, bratwurst, pork spare ribs, thick-cut bacon and some pieces of pork butt and a ham bone I had in the freezer. I was also able to use the last of my home-grown thyme and rosemary.
1 pound bratwurst, cut into 3” pieces
1 pound pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1” cubs
1 pound of smoked sausage, cut into 3” pieces (ham hocks can replace smoked sausage)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1” pieces
1 pound duck breast halves (optional)
1 whole onion, diced
4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup coarsely chopped curly parsley
1 pound dry navy or northern beans, soaked for 3 hours
3 bay leaves, large
1 cup celery, diced (optional)
1 (or more) quart chicken broth, canned is fine. (Please do not use bouillon cubes.)
- In a large skillet sauté the bacon to render the out fat. Then brown the pork pieces, sausages and duck breast over medium heat.
- In a large slow cooker or heavy Dutch oven place soaked and drained beans, duck, sausage, bacon, onion, fresh herbs, bay leaf, parsley, onion, celery and garlic. Add enough stock to cover the ingredients. Tie together thyme and rosemary, to be retrieved later.
- Bring to boil then turn down to simmer with lid on.
- Add stock as the beans absorb it to keep the dish from drying out. Cassoulet should have plenty of liquid when it’s done. Keep covered and cook until beans are tender, about 2 hours in a Dutch oven. In a slow cooker maybe longer depending on the temperature setting.
- Serve with cornbread or a good baguette. Condiments should be Dijon mustard and hot sauce. A good wine to have with this dish would be a Gewürztraminer or Riesling or a semi-dry white. Even a slightly chilled Pinot Noir would work.
If you don’t have time to cook and this recipe made you hungry, you might want to check out the Cassoulet at Bastille Brasserie & Bar and River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar – both are delicious. (See their ads in this issue for contact information.