I'd never made a cassoulet before, but I'm pretty sure this is wrong. They forget to mention where to use the wine, but this is too meaty even for me. And far too convoluted. I don't even fancy eating the rest :P
Anyone else got a cassoulet recipe that's easy and... like a cassoulet?
i, too, have used the saveur recipe--at least as a starting point. duck confit isn't hard to make--it just takes a day and a night. buy a couple of ducks, serve the breasts, save the trimmings and "confitize" the legs. the confit is an option worth taking if you're going to make the cassoulet
i found it desirable to cook the stew longer and lower--and over a period of two days, with a period of chilled rest--in order to get it optimized for guests. like many conglomerations, it gets better for a couple of days before peaking out.
I don't have this posted anywhere so I'll just have to copy it in. Long, but worth it:
Will's Overnight Cassoulet
I started working on this late afternoon - I DID soak the beans, BTW, by the boil-and-quick-soak method. I spread the rest of the process, up to putting it in the oven, over the evening, finishing at 11 pm.
2 lbs dried beans
1 red onion and 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
handful of diced bacon
black pepper, dried thyme to taste
salt - add later
Soak the beans or not, according to your personal feelings on the subject. If you do, drain them before proceeding. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then add the vegetables, bacon and seasonings. Stir and cook over high heat for a minute or so, then reduce the heat and cover the pot for about ten minutes, or until the bacon and onion are both transparent. Then raise the heat back to high, put in the beans, stir well to mix and pour in enough water to cover by 2" if beans were soaked, 4" if cooking from dry. Bring to boil, cover pot and adjust heat to induce a simmer.
Cook until beans are just tender and add salt to taste. Continue cooking until they're tender clear through but not mushy, adding boiling water if necessary to keep the top layer covered.
olive oil or duck fat
3 lbs lamb, neck slices or shanks
2-3 slices smoked pork shank
cooked or uncooked pork sausages
duck or goose confit, optional
large can Italian tomatoes in tomato juice
breadcrumbs/panko crumbs, optional
Oven at 200º
Place your braising pot over high heat and put in about 1/4 cup of fat or oil. When the fat is hot, brown the lamb, salting and peppering as you go. You may also brown the pork shank and the confit, if you're using it. Set the meat aside, and pour off the excess fat.
Now use a slotted spoon to dip out and spread a layer of beans over the bottom of the pot, about an inch deep. Using your fingers, remove any seeds and tough core from each tomato, and distribute pieces of tomato about a third of them over this bean layer. Put half of the lamb and the pork over this layer. Now spread another layer, this one using half of the remaining beans and half of the remaining tomato, and place the rest of the lamb and pork, and the confit if you're using it, on top of that, then top with the rest of the beans and tomato. Pour the juice from the tomatoes evenly over all of this, then pour in enough of the bean broth to just cover the top. Put the lid on the pot, and place in the center of the oven (with a small cookie sheet under it if your pot is really full), and then go to bed. Set your alarm for 7 to 8 hours...
The house will smell very good when you wake up. When you're good and ready, take the casserole out and check out the contents. (Also turn the oven up to 350º at this point). You're going to disturb your layering here, but unless you want to dodge a lot of bone fragments (especially if you used neckbones) you'll have to. So remove the lamb and pork and separate the meat and bones, returning the meat and the beans etcetera to the pot. (You'll probably want to debone the confit, too.) Now brown the sausage well, if it's uncooked, and add it to the pot, just nestled in the top layer. Adjust the amount of liquid so that it's just visible below the top beans, then spread on a good layer of crumbs if you're doing that. Put the pot back in the oven uncovered, and cook for another hour. Or so.
You can finish this in traditional fashion by breaking up the crumb crust and adding more, but that's never really worked for me. I just run the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top and let it go at that.
I'm sure this whole process can be streamlined quite a bit, but I would stress that the long cooking at low heat is the key to winding up with beans that are whole and coherent, but meltingly tender as well. And using lamb neck, which in this case was a last-minute substitution after I could find no shanks anywhere, is in fact a huge improvement.
Many cassoulet recipes are quite convoluted, or at least many-stepped, over several days. More if you make your own duck confit. Some insist that you line the baking dish with thin layers of pork skin, which contributes to the richness of the dish.
If you want something approximating cassoulet, but quick and easy, look up a Jacque Pepin 'more fast food my way' recipe. This is a series on the CreateTV (PBS) lineup, with book and web site at one of the PBS stations (San Francisco?).
Just a dish of white beans cooked with onion, tomatoes and lamb shanks is a lovely thing, and a nod in that direction. I have even cooked shanks in a crock pot, then removed and returned the meat with sautéed onion, canned tomatoes and canned beans and simply let it get hot through. Nobody turned it down...
here's a straight-ahead recipe for duck confit. as i said a while ago, all it takes is time. plus, if you cut up the ducks, you get duck breast as a bonus.
for me, cassoulet is a once-a-year dish. for that reason, i don't look for short cuts. i treat preparing it more like a multi-day food event than fixing dinner. but then, i enjoy doing it that way.
I spent some time in Castelnaudary in the south of France a few years ago, the home of Cassoulet. Had the opportunity to dine at a local restaurant there, a member in good standing of the Royal Order of Cassoulet. Great meal. I brought home two of the earthenware pots that they make it in.
The home of cassoulet? Could be, but don't say that in Toulouse! There's a third place, too, but it slipped my mind. Paula Wolfert and others have waxed amusingly on the Great Cassoulet Wars (it MUST have sausage, no, it CAN"T have sausage, but it MUST have goose, are you CRAZY? etcetera). Wolfert concludes, and I concur, that it's gonna be delicious however it's done, so just shut up and eat already.
re: Will Owen
Third is Carcassonne. For more authentic, try to find haricot de Tarbais for the beans. Expensive and absolutely worth it, texture for me makes all the difference with these beans. Make mine with confit de oie, mutton ( From Owensboro, KY ), sausage (non-smoked), tomatoes, no breadcrumbs, and goose fat, obtained from rendering the goose and making confit, Cooks forever, lasts forever, and think of it forever.
I have some Tarbais beans, but I'm afraid they may have gotten old on me. I should probably go ahead and cook them instead of waiting for winter (which doesn't really count for much around here anyway). My lamb-neck cassoulet was made with Peruanos, or Peruvian beans, which are either pale beige or have a greenish tinge before cooking, and taste like a very good cross between cannelini and pinto beans. Delicious and meaty. Those Tarbais are gonna have to be good to beat those. They certainly don't in price: $2/lb vs. 89¢!
It SHOULD be meaty! Make it easier on your arteries by choosing leaner meats, and skinning them first. But it's emphatically NOT a beans-with-some-meat dish.
Bourdain's in the Les Halles Cookbook is the ultimate, in my opinion. I like it VERY garlicky, and light-ish on the tomatoes. But, as I've written before, you should smack critics sharply across the nose with a wooden spoon if they insist there's one "true" recipe. That's like saying there's only one way to make soup, for goodnesssake.
And even though we got to the mid-90s today, I'm salivating for cassoulet right now. Last winter, I hit upon alchemy by accident with one batch, and I can still taste it today. Doubt I'll ever replicate it -- but I'll continue to try!
Mmmmm, cassoulet. Mmmmmm.