Like Alsatian Choucroute Garni, Polish Biggo, and Brazilian Feijoada, Cassoulet began as a medieval peasant dish designed to make do with whatever was around. Traditionally, that was dried beans or cabbage, preserved poultry, and preserved pork. In Southwest France, duck confit was the included preserved poultry. Three different ancient towns in the Languedoc vehemently lay claim to having invented the dish; Toulouse (with pork sausage and duck confit), Castelnaudary (with all pork parts), and Carcassonne (with mutton and game). They all have two things in common: dried white beans, and that they are amazingly good.
Cassoulet de Languedoc (Pork and Duck Bean Stew)
- Large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot
- 2 Large Bowls
- 1 Large liquid measuring bowl
- Food processor
- 2 lb Dried white beans like Tarbais or cannellini, rinsed
- 1 tbsp Each: Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
- 8 cups Chicken stock
- 1 packet Unflavored gelatin (¼ oz)
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1 lb Toulouse sausages (or garlic sausage or kielbasa)
- 1 lb Boneless pork shoulder, cut into 12 chunks
- 8 oz Pancetta in 1 slab
- 1½ lb Ham hock or pigs knuckles (optional)
- 4 oz Salt pork cut into chunks
- 6 medium Confit of duck legs, drumsticks and thighs separated (chicken legs may be substituted)
- ⅓ cup Duck fat
- 2 medium Onions, chopped
- 3 small Carrots, cut into 3-inch sections
- 3 small Celery ribs, cut into 3-inch sections
- 1 head Garlic, unpeeled
- 4 cloves Garlic, peeled
- 1 packet Herb bouquet of 4 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme (or ½ tsp dried), 2 bay leafs, and 1 clove.
- 2 tbsp Unseasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp Walnut oil
Two Days Before
- Two days before: cooking, season pork shoulder and ham hock and place in a plastic freezer bag. Refrigerate. Soak beans covered by water overnight.
One Day Before
- Drain beans, rinse, and set aside. Dry pork shoulder chunks with paper towels. Heat the duck fat In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the sausages and remove for later. Lightly brown the pork shoulder cubes. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté, stirring, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the ham hocks and pancetta. Move them around the pot until they brown a little around the edges. Add garlic head and tomato paste. Cook 1 more minute. Add stock mixed with gelatin and the tied bouquet garni. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1½ hours.
- After 1 hour of cooking, place beans in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Skim off the top, reduce heat to medium-high. Simmer for a few minutes, drain and add to the pot. Cover and simmer another 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove pot from heat and uncover. Let cool and skim all the fat from the top, reserving 2 tbsp for finishing the cassoulet. Put the cover back on and refrigerate overnight to develop the flavors.
Day Of Prep
- Microwave the duck confit for a few minutes to soften. As soon as the meat is cool enough to handle, pull meat from bones in large pieces.
- Remove pot with meat and beans from refrigerator. Pick out the ham hocks, garlic head, bouquet garni, and pancetta. Cut meat from ham hock into bite size pieces, discarding bones and fatty parts. Cut pancetta into 1-inch chunks, discarding extraneous fat. Set aside. Squeeze the garlic pulp from the garlic head into a small bowl.
- In a food processor, puree the salt pork, cooked garlic and raw cloves, and 1 cup water. Add to the pot with beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and fold pork meats into the beans.
- Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Remove the bean-meat mixture in the pot to a bowl with a large slotted spoon. Pour cooking liquid from the pot to another bowl. Scoop half the bean mixture back into the pot. Scatter the duck pieces over the beans in the pot. Cover that with the remaining bean mixture. Pour cooking liquid back into the pot. The beans should almost completely submerged. Add a little water if not. Drizzle the 2 tbsp reserved skimmed fat over the top. Cook for 1½ hours.
- Cut browned sausages into 3 sections. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F (135°C). Gently stir up the skin that has formed over the beans. Place the sausages on top of the beans. Dust top with bread crumbs. Bake 1 more hour. The top crust should be a beautiful golden brown. If it isn't, run under the broiler to toast, about 2 minutes. Move pot to the stove top and let rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle walnut oil over the top. Serve.