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Editor's note: Each Saturday afternoon we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.
In its simplest form, cassoulet is a casserole of beans and pork (usually sausage) cooked slowly with aromatics. In its highest form it can contain wine, bacon and confit of pork, duck and even goose. There are good things to be said about all these forms of cassoulet; to be honest, I've even tasted good cassoulet out of a can. To me, the fact that an excellent cassoulet can be made out of minimal ingredients is what makes this noble dish a necessary part of any cook's repertoire.
This recipe uses pork shoulder, sausage, bacon, and wine but forgoes the more expensive and/or time-consuming elements of any sort of confit. That does not mean that if you have a surplus of duck confit sitting around it wouldn't be a delicious and welcome addition—just that it isn't necessary to come out with a fantastic final product. Another reason that cassoulet makes a fantastic supper (especially true on a day like New Years) is that you can take it as far as braising the beans and pork, then cool it and refrigerate it. Before company arrives, put the cassoulet over a low burner to bring up its temperature, cover it with breadcrumbs, and put it in the oven for its final crisp. Lots of crusty bread, green salad, plenty of wine and supper is ready.