Cassoulet is one of those dishes that I’ve been intimidated by for a long time, which is funny because it is actually a peasant dish. While this dish is very time consuming, there is actually nothing all that difficult about it. This dish originates from the Languedoc region of France and was traditionally made with dried beans and whatever preserved meat was on hand. My wonderful Mother in Law, Mary Lou, suggested that we conquer this dish for my birthday dinner this year and it couldn’t have turned out more perfectly! She purchased all of the meats from Oliver’s Meat Market here in Denver. They were so helpful in making sure we had just the right ingredients. The beans were creamy and the meat nice and tender!! —Bethany Cornish Smith
dried cannellini beans
Kosher salt, to taste
homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
To start, in a large bowl, combine the beans with 3 quarts water and 3 tablespoons salt. Stir the mixture to combine and let sit at room temperature overnight. Mary Lou was nice enough to start this whole process before we got there. In the morning, drain and rinse beans and leave them at room temperature.
When you are ready to start the whole cooking process, move your oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. While the oven is coming up to temperature, place stock in a large liquid measuring cup and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set the mixture aside.
Then, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large Dutch oven, over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Next, Add salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Once the meat has cooked Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Then add the pork shoulder and brown, followed by the sausage. Once each type of meat is browned, add it to a bowl and set it aside.
After the meat has been browed and set aside, add the onions to the pot and saute them in the remaining fat. While the onions are cooking, stir them well in order to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook until onions are translucent but not browned, about 4 minutes. Then, add the beans, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley and bay leaves. I made my parsley/bay leaves into a bouquet garni to make removing it later easy! Once the vegetables have softened a bit, you can add the stock/gelatin mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the Dutch oven and cook until beans are almost tender but retain a slight bite, about 45 minutes.
Once the beans are mostly tender, remove the bouquet garni and add all of the meats to pot, making sure that the duck end up on top of the beans with the skin facing upwards. The Beans should remain almost completely submerged. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top, about 2 hours, adding more water by pouring it carefully down the side of the pot as necessary to keep beans mostly covered.
After 2 hours break up the curst with a spoon and shake the pot gently to redistribute. Then, return to oven and continue cooking, stopping to break and shake the crust every 30 minutes until you reach the 4 hour mark. Once you are about 20 minutes away from eating, top the mixture with the bread crumbs and return it to the oven so they can crisp. Once the bread crumbs are golden brown, take the pot out of the oven and serve immediately.