The Best Cassoulet Recipe Made with Pork Shoulder, Duck Confit, Garlic Sausage and topped with Bread crumbs.
CASSOULET IN PARIS
The cassoulet at Au Pied de Cochon – the perfect Parisian brasserie – was one of the highlights of visiting Paris. The restaurant is in the area of Les Halles which was famous for its market until the market was moved out of town. The food reflects this by serving classic brasserie dishes. The mirror lined dining room is just what you would picture in a Parisian brasserie. Of course, we had to order the French onion soup and cassoulet.
French cassoulet is a hearty and traditional bean-based dish that has been savoured in France since the 15th century. Originating from the Languedoc region of southern France, cassoulet is a comfort food deeply rooted in French culinary history. The classic version of cassoulet is made from white beans, pork or duck fat, garlic, onions, and a variety of meats such as pork sausage, duck confit, and even goose. The dish is slow cooked until the flavors merge, resulting in a flavorful and rustic creation. The beans are simmered with herbs and spices along with some type of meat and/or sausages. The dish is usually topped with a layer of breadcrumbs for a crunchy texture. Cassoulet is a timeless French recipe that can be enjoyed year-round.
The preparation of this dish has been a tradition for centuries, as evidenced by the fact that it is still prepared using approaches from previous generations. Cassoulet is also known for its hearty, filling qualities, often served as a main course for dinner. It can be made ahead of time and reheated for an easy meal. It is also a popular dish to serve at parties or gatherings due to its rich flavor and hearty texture. This dish is regularly found in French restaurants and served for Sunday lunch, with some recipes taking up to five days to prepare. As such, making cassoulet can be considered a time-honored tradition in France.
Traditionally, cassoulet’s hearty ingredients were used to feed peasant farmers during cold winter months, although it has since become a beloved dish enjoyed in family homes, restaurants and festivals all over France. Taking into account all the time it requires to make the perfect cassoulet – soaking and cooking the beans, slow-cooking the meats – this dish is typically served on special occasions or during large gatherings. Preparing a cassoulet requires a combination of time and patience, but it’s always worth the effort!.
On this particular trip, we were there in the winter, so the restaurant was serving le Cassoulet Toulousain. This means it is in the style of the way it is made in Toulouse, which is a classic. With some research, I was able to recreate the recipe at home.
CREATING THE BEST CASSOULET RECIPE
Back home, when I found out that Rancho Gordo actually sold Tarbais beans, the traditional French bean used in cassoulet, I decided to recreate the recipe. First, I made sure all of the ingredients were the best I could possibly get my hands on. Then, instead of making it using the classic, time consuming method (that can take up to three days), I incorporated some techniques that I thought would improve the recipe and also make it quicker and easier.
Beans are less likely to burst and will cook through more evenly when they are brined. This recipe is really all about the beans, so the first step was brining the beans (see our post about Cooking Heirloom Beans). Soak the beans overnight in filtered water with salt added helps the beans hold their shape. The water is filtered water because minerals in tap water could keep the beans from cooking evenly. Beans must be soaked for at least 5 hours, though overnight is better, and the water must be discarded. This will also make the beans easier to digest and less likely to cause gas. An alternative to soaking is putting a piece of Kombu, dried seaweed, into the beans when they are cooking. This helps them cook evenly and hold their shape as well as making them less likely to cause gas.
Beans also contain a natural toxin (Phytohaemagglutinin) that is removed by soaking and then cooking at a high enough temperature. Previously, we used a crock pot for this recipe, but a crock pot may not reach a high enough temperature to destroy the toxin. So, we switched to using the Instant Pot to pressure cook the beans. It’s fast and easy. There is a setting for beans and the default cooks most varieties perfectly. It also frees up the oven, and it uses less electricity so it is better for the environment (and the budget).
I held back the wine and the tomatoes, which are usually added at the beginning. They are acidic and the beans cook more evenly without them, so I added them at the end. The wine was used to deglaze the pan. This added more flavor, and cooked off some of the alcohol. The tomatoes were added as tomato paste, so their flavor was already concentrated. The garlic was roasted instead of added raw, because, well who doesn’t like roasted garlic.
I made the bread crumbs from leftover home made bread, and sauted them in the pan that I fried the pork in, using some of the left over pork fat, adding even more flavor.
The recipe worked marvelously and the dish was stunning!
Photos by Tony Fitzgerald Photography