U.S. National Cassoulet Day is celebrated on January 9 every year in the United States. Cassoulet, a hearty slow-simmered stew of sausage, confit (typically duck), pork, and white beans, is one of the great hallmarks of French country cuisine. The best versions are slow cooked for hours until the beans and meat fuse together in some velvety richness. This recipe is for a cassoulet cooked over a four day period! Definitely an endeavor for one who has the time! But wouldn't this make a fabulous dish for Valentine's Day?
Three cities in France claim ownership of the origin of this dish...but one can find it all over France now. It is a great dish on a cold winter night! Search our site for two pans by Nest homeware that are perfect for cooking this dish. They are beautiful and functional - the Dutch oven is featured below and its on sale for 20% off!
If you ever find yourself meandering the streets of Paris - stop by the La Fontaine de Mars bistro - one of the oldest restaurants in Paris and have yourself a spectacular cassoulet.
dried great northern beans
2 1/2 quarts
unsalted chicken broth (10 cups)
- 2 duck confit legs
- 8 ounces fresh of French Sausage such as saucisse de Toulouse or saucisse à l’ail - if you do not have access you can use any hearty tasting sausage
boneless pork shoulder or belly
fresh pork skin (optional)
kosher salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Day 1: Soak the beans. Place 1 pound dried great northern beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 to 3 inches. Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.
Day 2: Boil the beans for 5 minutes. Drain the beans. Place the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a rapid boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Drain again.
Cook the beans. Bring 2 1/2 quarts unsalted chicken stock or broth to a boil over medium-high heat in the same pot. Add the beans, bring back to a boil, and skim off any scum. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook uncovered until the beans are just tender but still whole and unbroken, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the meats.
Cut the meats. Dice 3 ounces salt pork. Halve 2 duck confit legs between the joint so that you have 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs. Cut 8 ounces garlic sausage into 2-inch pieces. Cut 4 ounces boneless pork shoulder or belly into 2-inch chunks. Cut 4 ounces fresh pork skin into 2-inch squares if using.
Make a salt pork and garlic paste. Place the salt pork and 3 garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process into a sticky paste, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, chop by hand into a paste.) Refrigerate until ready to use.
Sear the duck and pork. Place the duck skin-side down in a large frying pan over medium-low heat and cook until golden-brown, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the sausage to the pan and cook into browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate. Add the pork belly or shoulder and cook until browned on a few sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate. Refrigerate the meats until ready to use.
Cool the beans. When the beans are ready, remove from the heat and let cool until warm to the touch, about 1 hour.
Season the beans. Add the garlic-pork paste, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the beans and stir gently to combine, breaking up the paste so that is it evenly distributed.
Drain the beans. Pour the bean mixture through a strainer fitted over a large bowl.
Line the cooking vessel. Use a heavy casserole dish if you have one. Otherwise you can use a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed, oven safe pot. Line the bottom of the vessel with the cut pork skin if using.
Assemble the cassoulet. Layer half of the beans on top of the pork skin. Place the duck confit and pork shoulder or belly on the beans. Layer the remaining beans over the duck and pork. Top with the sausages, nestling them into the beans until just their tops are visible.
Top with cooking liquid. Pour enough of the bean cooking liquid into the cassoulet to barely cover the beans. Sprinkle a dusting of freshly ground black pepper across the surface. You can immediately move on to the next step and bake it for 3 hours, or the cassoulet can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Refrigerate the remaining bean cooking liquid.
Bake the cassoulet for 3 hours. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Bake the cassoulet uncovered for 3 hours. While it is cooking, it will develop a brown crust on top. Pierce the crust and moisten the surface by spooning some of the cooking liquid over it, taking care not to disturb the layers below. Allow the crust to re-form 2 or 3 times. If the beans start to look dry, moisten them with several spoonfuls of extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth. Let the cassoulet cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day 3: Bake the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Uncover the cassoulet and bake for 1 1/2 hours, breaking the crust with a spoon and moistening the surface at least twice. If the beans look dry, add spoonful's of extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth. You can serve the cassoulet now, or let it cool to room temperature and cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day 4: Heat the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325ºF. Heat the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours, moistening with extra bean-cooking liquid or chicken broth as necessary. Serve immediately in its vessel, gently simmering and unstirred.
Garlic sausage substitution: Fresh pork sausage, such as a mild, sweet Italian sausage without fennel can be substituted for the garlic sausage.
Salt pork substitution: You can use bacon but it is not traditional and does add a distinct smokiness, which is not unpleasant but cassoulet purists would disapprove.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 5 days.
This recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Eating cookbook by Ann Mah. We will be carrying this and other French cookbooks shortly on our site.