The first time I had cassoulet in its home turf it was a revelation. This loose, almost soup-like stew of beans and meat was so far removed from all versions of cassoulet I'd had in the United States, or even in other parts of France. It was a large, bubbling vat of beans and meat, covered in a crust so dark that it was almost black. Rich, meaty, and overwhelmingly simple, the main flavor was just that of the cured meat, a good stock, and beans. Here's how to make it at home.
'cassoulet' on Serious Eats
The first time I had cassoulet in its home turf it was a revelation. This loose, almost soup-like stew of beans and meat was so far removed from all versions of cassoulet I'd had in the United States, or even in other parts of France. It was a large, bubbling vat of beans and meat, covered in a crust so dark that it was almost black. Rich, meaty, and overwhelmingly simple, the main flavor was just that of the cured meat, a good stock, and beans.
Don't scoff at the idea of a skillet cassoulet that's done in 30 minutes. We've managed it before, and we'll surely do it again—after all, this column is dedicated to reinventing classics to cut down on time without detracting from flavor. Here, beans, sausage, and pork tenderloin combine in a rich, garlicky stew with a crisp breadcrumb crust.
Beans, sausage, and pork tenderloin in a rich, garlicky stew that gets to the table in about half an hour.
A kind of Mulberry Street rendition of cassoulet, this one-pot dinner for two is filled of garlicky sausage, creamy cannellini beans, rosemary, garlic, and broccolini. Rustic and hearty!
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. 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.
Let us count the ways you can reinterpret the French stew-casserole hybrid, cassoulet. Recently seven chefs did for Savoy's Cassoulet Festival. The restaurants they represented included: Savoy, Nuela, Vinegar Hill House, Hundred Acres, wd-50, Fatty Johnson's, Back Forty. Check out how each reinterpreted the concept with crispy partridge terrine, pickled tongue, and pine nuts, and more.
My intention was to let the confit rest for about a month before eating the duck, but one thing led to another, and half a year later, that pot was still in my fridge with its parts intact. The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became, knowing that breaking into the pot would be time-consuming even if the results were going to be delicious. So one of my New Year's resolutions was: get rid of that giant pot of fat with the confit.
Most of us who buy tongues at the market are used to seeing rounded curves on either end of the organ—not just the tip of the tongue, which is by default curved, but also on the meaty end of the tongue. More or less severed at the back of the mouth, the tongue emerges autonomous like some free-floating agent from the rest of the head. It was only after I began apprenticing at Fleisher's that I noticed the way the organ connects to muscles at the base of the skull.
"I'm not going for a 30-Minute Meal here, but for a cassoulet, this recipe is pretty speedy." I love a traditional cassoulet but am rarely prepared to devote several days to prepping and sourcing all the ingredients. Just reading through...
Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by their book, Almost Meatless. I order cassoulet a lot at restaurants, and...
Here in America we love to argue about food, from chili (should it have beans?), to macaroni and cheese (creamy or crusty?), to bagels (to toast or not to toast?). In France, they like to argue about cassoulet, the classic...