Cassoulet is a traditional dish from the South of France and an elevated version of American “Pork n Beans”. It is delicious, but preparing it has often dreaded by home chefs for its complex ingredients and a traditional, time-consuming procedure that span multiple days.
Not so, here!
You can put this heart-warming dish together in just over an hour, using ingredients available from your local grocer and our East Bay wine and cheese shops.
According to food historians, humans have been eating Cassoulet for many centuries. In those days before refrigeration, any unfinished Cassoulet would be stored on the stove top, which was wood-fired and doubled as the only source of heat as well as a cooking and baking appliance. Each day, additional water, leftover wine and any meat or veggie scraps would be added to the pot. When time to be eaten again a few days later, it would be enhanced on the stovetop with more beans and fresh herbs before the cycle started once again.
In this never-ending-loop, a cassoulet could be underway for an eternity, and in the case of San Francisco’s famed French Restaurant, ‘Le Central’, even a point of street-sign pride – st the time of this photo, their cassoulet has been cooking for 17,645 days. Talk about spanning multiple days!
By using canned beans and other shortcuts, we’ve discovered a cassoulet that is both delicious and easy on our modern schedules.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 2-3 strips of Bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 links Smoked sausage cut into 1/4 inch rounds
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 med carrot, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup Low-Sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup White wine, dry and unoaked – oaked wines bring unwanted bitterness (ask our staff for guidance)
- 2 cans white beans (Cannellini preferred or kidney, navy, great northern…) rinsed and drained
- 2 duck confit – leg and thigh (available at Farmstead Cheeses & Wines)
- 2 Tbsp Red wine vinegar
- 2-3 sprigs ea, Fresh thyme and parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1 Bay leaf (or half leaf if the more potent California Bay)
- Optional – bread crumbs and good olive oil
This dish requires just a single pot/dutch oven, but also works well in a crock pot, slow-cooker or insta-pot. Start by searing the fat side of the duck confit over med-high heat just until the skin is crisp and caramelized. Remove to a plate. Note, the duck confit is ready to eat right from the package, but for this dish is traditionally seared and heated prior to serving.
Using the hot duck fat, cook the bacon and sausage until the bacon is crisp but not dark. Remove from the pot to drain on a paper towel, reserving 2-3 Tbsp of the fat in the pot.
Saute the chopped onion, celery and carrot until the onlion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir another 2 minutes. Deglaze with the white wine, then add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes (with juice) and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then add the beans, vinegar and herbs. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Stir in the bacon and sausage and push the duck confit most of the way into the beans, leaving the skin exposed. Cook another 5-7 minutes until heated through.
Optional: take this dish up a notch by placing in the serving bowls, dusting with a generous portion of bread crumbs drizzled with the olive oil and toasted under the broiler for a few seconds until nicely browned. Top with sprigs of fresh herbs and serve, carefully, or you’ll burn your guests!
Serve with: a nice salad, a good baguette and a bottle of rustic red such as a Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas or Vacqueyras.
Pro Tip: make this ahead and store in a zip-lock bag for up to a week in the fridge, or up to three months in the freezer.