Author and Educator
Although it is not an American dish by origin, cassoulet has become a familiar part of our cuisine largely through its frequent appearance on the menus of French restaurants. One of the reasons it appeals so much to Americans is that we have a natural fondness for the bean. Another is that it is highly seasoned and hearty. Then, too, it lends itself to our favorite way of entertaining—the buffet.
- 3 pounds white beans
- Water as needed
- 3 pounds pork shoulder, in one piece
- 3 pounds lamb shoulder, in one piece
- Red wine as needed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 onion, stuck with cloves
- 2 carrot, peeled and chopped
- Bouquet garni (garlic, celery, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, tied together in a piece of cheese-cloth)
- 1 pig's foot, split
- 1/2 pound lean salt pork
- 1 large or 2 small garlic sausages, such as kielbasy, cotechino, or whatever regional sausage is available
- 4 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Bread crumbs as needed
- Lard or goose fat as needed
- Chopped parsley as needed
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Cover the beans well with cold water. Bring to a boil, boil 2 minutes, and then let them rest 1 hour.
Put the pork and lamb roasts on a rack and roast for 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with a little red wine and the pan juices. Salt and pepper well. When done, allow to cool, reserving the pan juices.
Add the onion stuck with cloves and the carrots, bouquet garni, and pig's foot to the beans and simmer until the beans are about half cooked. Add the salt pork. Put the sausages to poach in water until they are cooked through. Sauté the onions and garlic in butter until just soft.
When the pork and lamb are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Slice the sausages. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid. Taste the beans for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and additional thyme if needed. Remove the meat from the pig’s foot and cut into pieces. Dice the salt pork.
You will need about a 4-quart casserole or baking dish for the cassoulet. Arrange a layer of beans at the bottom, then some of the various meats, and the onions and garlic. Continue with layers of beans, meats, and seasonings, and end with a layer of beans.
Blend the tomato paste with the bean liquid and spoon over the beans until it reaches three-quarters of the way to the top. Cover the top with breadcrumbs and dot with lard or goose fat. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until beautifully browned and bubbly and most of the liquid has cooked away. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a good salad and crusty bread.
Traditionally this dish is served in the middle of the day, since it requires some hours for digestion. So if you are serving it for an evening meal, see that there is to be some activity after dinner. Heavy red wine should accompany the cassoulet.