This is my fake version of cassoulet. In the Southwest of France you will find more authentic versions. In Carrefour supermarkets throughout the country, you will find cassoulet in cans. This recipe falls somewhere in between those two extremes.
In the interest of full disclosure, the recipe that follows is not a real cassoulet. If you are inclined to make an authentic cassoulet, I suggest reading Mark Bittman’s superb article, How to Conquer the Cassoulet. Hailing from Southwestern France, the cassoulet is both comforting and sophisticated. Each element of the final dish can (and some would argue should) be made in house. And when each component of a cassoulet is made with such exactitude, the dish is something of an operatic triumph. Some years ago I ate a cassoulet outside of Biarritz that was so good it made me cry.
And with all of that ado about the beauties of a real French cassoulet, I am about to share a recipe for the cassoulet’s Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade bastard child (I promise no kwanza cakes for dessert to follow). Yes, you could opt to confit your own duck legs for this recipe, but sometimes the act of just getting food onto the table and not calling the local Thai deliveryman is a triumph in itself.
I decided to make this version of cassoulet because we had leftover Minestra. After eating minestra for two days straight, I was ready for a new dish all together. In this recipe, I have reduced the cassoulet to its most basic elements of sausage and beans. I did not use confit duck legs because I am still attempting to recover from holiday gluttony and thusly decided to give my stomach a break. I did opt to use duck fat. D’artagnan states that duck fat is “low in saturated fat (20% less than butter) and high in unsaturated fat, making it one of healthiest animal fats you can eat.” Admittedly D’artagnan is one of the main duck fat vendors in the US so their claims might be just a touch self interested, but a little duck fat is still technically better than butter. Plus I had it in the fridge and so that is what I used in this recipe. This riff on cassoulet might make the grand-mères of Southwest France weep (and not tears of joy), but I it’s still better than ordering pad thai. Enjoy!
- 1 lb dried cannellini beans or great northern beans soaked overnight and drained (see instructions in Minesrta recipe)
- 6 tablespoons duck fat (or butter or olive oil)
- 2 diced carrots
- 2 diced Vidalia onions
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 3 oz diced pancetta (or bacon)
- 1 bayleaf
- 6 pork sausages
- Minestra leftovers (you need at least one cup, and it should have the consistency of a tomato sauce)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Note: If you already have beans soaked and cooked, skip ahead to step 6 in the recipe below. I do not suggest even attempting to make this recipe with canned beans. It will just end up tasting like an awful rendition of a tinned campfire dinner.
- Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat over medium high heat in a 6qt Dutch oven.
- Add carrots, onions and pancetta and sauté until onion is translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
- Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute.
- Add beans and enough water to cover the beans by two inches.
- Add bayleaf, and reduce heat to simmer for 2 hours. The beans are done cooking when you have sampled at least five of them and they are each tender.
- Remove bayleaf from beans and set beans aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons duck fat over medium high heat and brown sausages on all sides.
- While sausages are browning, mix the leftover minestra into the beans.
- Rub 1 tablespoon duck fat over the bottom of a 4 quart casserole dish.
- When sausages are browned, place in the casserole and toss to cover with the bean mixture.
- Sprinkle the casserole with breadcrumbs and place little globs of remaining duck fat over the crumbs.
- Tightly cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Uncover the casserole, raise the oven heat to 450 and bake an additional 5 minutes until bread crumbs are browned.
- Garnish cassoulet with fresh parsley.
- Serve warm with a simple green salad and a baguette.