Authentic French Cassoulet

September 4, 2013

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It’s quite possible that making a cassoulet has been my greatest culinary achievement to date. A cassoulet is a rustic, slow-cooked stew hailing from the southwest region of France, full of hearty beans, herbs, and rich, juicy meats. Whenever my husband and I are in Paris, we stop at our favorite bistro smack dab in the middle of the 7ème, Fontaine de Mars, to enjoy this special meal. Fontaine de Mars is a quintessential French bistro complete with brusque waiters, tables too close together, checked linens, flowing Sancerre, and some of the best French cuisine we’ve ever tasted. It’s location is second to none, and many nights we have found ourselves leaving the restaurant late at night and stumbling upon the illuminated Eiffel Tower just a few steps away.

The signature dish at the bistro is the cassoulet, which, despite its cult following, isn’t even on the menu (you have to ask for it). Super cool. It’s one of Aaron’s favorite meals ever so there was no better choice for his birthday dinner this year. I researched the most authentic recipe to use as a guide and settled on one by Chef Raymond Blanc. I made a few tweaks and substitutions to make it my own, as I will describe in more detail below.

All in all, the 5+ hours spent slaving in the kitchen was totally worth it. There are lots of recipes out there with shortcuts and time saving methods (i.e. canned beans– the nerve!), but in my opinion there is no comparison to making the original from scratch. This was a true cooking adventure and loads of fun if you love to be in the kitchen like I do.

The cassoulet was warming and hearty and full of rich, complex flavors. It received rave reviews from my husband and he’s quite the food critic icon wink Authentic French Cassoulet This dinner is truly a taste of Paris in your home and I recommend making it to impress and delight someone special. You can serve it with a simple mixed green salad or just a crusty, French baguette. The dish serves 6 so you could even throw a Cassoulet party ~ it may very well be the next big thing!

Authentic French Cassoulet

Recipe inspired by Raymond Blanc via BBC’s Good Food

250g (1/2 lb.) smoked pancetta
300g (2/3 lb.) pork sausages
600g (1 lb. 5 oz.) dried haricot beans, soaked overnight in 3 times their volume of water
300 g (2/3 lb.) pork shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
1 celery stick
1 small white or yellow onion
1 large carrot
8 garlic cloves
2 ripe plum tomatoes
25g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil
1 bouquet garni
8 pinches of sea salt
2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1 clove, lightly crushed
2 tsp lemon juice

To finish
2 confit ducks legs
60g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups plain dried breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Before I get to the directions, I wanted to show you a few special products I bought for this dish. Living in London, I am lucky enough to have access to some really wonderful imported foods from France including L’Oie Cendree Goose Fat (below, left) and Reflets de France duck confit (below, right). Both imported products are available through Ocado and Waitrose in London.

IMG 3790 Authentic French Cassoulet

I also was able to find a good quality bouquet garni from Ocado / Waitrose, which is a little bundle full of thyme, parsley, bay leaves and marjoram, wrapped in muslin and tied with string. If you can’t find a bouquet garni already made, you can make one yourself by tying herbs together tightly with a string.

IMG 3831 Authentic French Cassoulet

Here are a few more ingredients I gathered up…

IMG 3798 Authentic French CassouletThe type of casserole you use for your cassoulet is very important. I recommend a flameproof/ovenproof casserole that is about 26 cm (5 1/2 quarts) for this size recipe. I used this beautiful hot-orange Le Creuset French Oven.

IMG 3794 Authentic French Cassoulet

The fun of making your own cassoulet starts the night before when you soak the dried beans overnight. Simply place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 3 times their volume of water. I used dried haricot beans, which are small, oval, creamy colored beans with a buttery texture. The type of beans you use in a cassoulet is important because they contribute greatly to the consistency of the stew and I found these worked very well.

IMG 3800 Authentic French Cassoulet

The next morning, drain the beans completely and discard the soaking water.

IMG 3811 Authentic French Cassoulet

Next, cut up your pancetta into lardons (small cubes). If you buy the smoked pancetta sliced, make sure you ask for it thickly sliced, so the cubes are nice and thick.

IMG 3815 Authentic French Cassoulet

IMG 3817 Authentic French Cassoulet

Place the drained beans into a large pot, add the lardons, and cover with fresh cold water. Bring it to a boil and blanch for 15-20 minutes.

IMG 3819 Authentic French Cassoulet

Drain everything in the pot into a colander and discard the cooking water. Set aside while you prep some other ingredients.

IMG 3825 Authentic French Cassoulet

Chop up the pork shoulder into 1″ cubes. Set aside.

IMG 3826 Authentic French Cassoulet

Chop up the onion, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves, leaving them whole. At this point, preheat the oven to 120C / 250F.

IMG 3805 e1377875214575 Authentic French Cassoulet

Heat the goose fat or olive oil in a 26cm (5 1/2 quart) flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add the pork shoulder and brown for about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to low and then add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic cloves.

IMG 3832 Authentic French Cassoulet

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While that is cooking, in a separate frying pan, brown the sausage for about 6-8 minutes in a little olive oil.

IMG 3835 Authentic French Cassoulet

Cut the sausage into chunks. Set aside.

IMG 3851 Authentic French Cassoulet

Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni to the casserole and cook slowly for about 5 minutes until the meat and vegetables begin to caramelize.

IMG 3845 Authentic French Cassoulet

Add the sausage, beans, and lardons and pour in 1.2 liters (2 pints) water. Bring to a boil and skim off as much scum off the top as you can. Add the salt, pepper, clove and lemon juice. The water will be almost up to the top, but don’t worry, it will reduce as it cooks.

IMG 3856 Authentic French Cassoulet

Place the casserole in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring every hour. After 2 hours, check to see if the beans are soft and creamy and if the broth has thickened. If not, you may need to cook it another 30 minutes – 1 hour to get it to this stage.

IMG 3861 Authentic French Cassoulet

Take the casserole out of the oven and add the duck legs. Place them underneath the beans and vegetables.

IMG 3870 Authentic French Cassoulet

Add the breadcrumbs on top and drizzle the goose fat or olive oil and garlic on top. Cook for an additional 2 hours.

IMG 3941 Authentic French Cassoulet

After this time, the crumbs will have browned and it should look something like this…

IMG 4000 Authentic French Cassoulet

IMG 3999 Authentic French Cassoulet Enjoy!

IMG 4006 Authentic French Cassoulet

 

Authentic French Cassoulet
 
IMG 4010 copy Authentic French Cassoulet
Author:
Recipe type: Main
 
Ingredients
  • 250g (1/2 lb.) smoked pancetta
  • 300g (2/3 lb.) pork sausages
  • 600g (1 lb. 5 oz.) dried haricot beans, soaked overnight in 3 times their volume of water
  • 300 g (2/3 lb.) pork shoulder, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 25g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 8 pinches of sea salt
  • 2 pinches of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove, lightly crushed
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
To finish
  • 2 confit ducks legs
  • 60g goose fat or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. The fun of making your own cassoulet starts the night before when you soak the dried beans overnight. Simply place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 3 times their volume of water.
  2. The next morning, drain the beans completely and discard the soaking water.
  3. Next, cut up your pancetta into lardons (small cubes). If you buy the smoked pancetta sliced, make sure you ask for it thickly sliced, so the cubes are nice and thick.
  4. Place the drained beans into a large pot, add the lardons, and cover with fresh cold water. Bring it to a boil and blanch for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Drain everything in the pot into a colander and discard the cooking water. Set aside while you prep some other ingredients.
  6. Chop up the pork shoulder into 1″ cubes. Set aside.
  7. Chop up the onion, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Peel the garlic cloves, leaving them whole. At this point, preheat the oven to 120C / 250F.
  8. Heat the goose fat or olive oil in a 26cm (5½ quart) flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add the pork shoulder and brown for about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to low and then add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic cloves.
  9. While that is cooking, in a separate frying pan, brown the sausage for about 6-8 minutes in a little olive oil.
  10. Cut the sausage into chunks. Set aside.
  11. Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni to the casserole and cook slowly for about 5 minutes until the meat and vegetables begin to caramelize.
  12. Add the sausage, beans, and lardons and pour in 1.2 liters (2 pints) water. Bring to a boil and skim off as much scum off the top as you can. Add the salt, pepper, clove and lemon juice. The water will be almost up to the top, but don’t worry, it will reduce as it cooks.
  13. Place the casserole in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 2 – 2½ hours, stirring every hour. After 2 hours, check to see if the beans are soft and creamy and if the broth has thickened. If not, you may need to cook it another 30 minutes – 1 hour to get it to this stage.
  14. Take the casserole out of the oven and add the duck legs. Place them underneath the beans and vegetables.
  15. Add the breadcrumbs on top and drizzle the goose fat or olive oil and garlic on top. Cook for an additional 2 hours.
  16. After this time, the crumbs will have browned.

 

button print gry20 Authentic French Cassoulet
  • AmaxW11

    What’s great in Paris in extraordinary at your own table for your birthday…

    Pair with… who cares… this dish is amazing w/ any wine!

  • ciaolinda

    This is IMPRESSIVE!!!….now you are going to have to teach me !!
    …loved your step by step instructions:)) Bravo!!

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