This was one of my godmother's favorite dishes, and one she cooked often. She was from a small town in the north of France and cooking to her was like breathing to the rest of us, it came naturally and effortless. I learned so much from watching her in the kitchen, like how not to be overwhelmed with a long list of ingredients and to find the rhythm and joy in a day spent cooking. I'm not going to lie. This dish takes time. This dish requires you to befriend and get to know your butcher. This dish has many steps. This dish has a long, slow cook time. BUT, this dish will not disappoint. It's a perfect dish to make on a rainy weekend. Gather all the ingredients a day, or two, before, put on a football game or your favorite music station. It's one of the most rewarding, flavorful and comforting dishes you will ever make.
- 1 1/2 pounds dried white beans
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bouquet garni
- 1 peeled onion, studded with 8 clove sticks
- 7 ounces bacon
- 2/3 pounds cooked garlic sausage
- 4 tablespoons bacon fat
- 1 pound deboned lamb shoulder, cut into pieces (ask your butcher to cut it up for you)
- 4-5 thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground piment d’espelette (smokey red chili pepper powder)
- 6 herbed pork sausages
- ¾ pound pork shoulder steak
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- A few sprigs of parsley
- one 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 large duck confit legs (you can find these at Whole Foods, Uyajimaya)
- 3 cups breadcrumbs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the dried beans overnight in a large bowl of water (in 3 times their volume).
Rinse and drain the beans the next day.
Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water. Add the chopped carrots, a teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, the bouquet garni, the onion pricked with cloves, bacon and the garlic sausage. Bring to a boil and lower heat, leaving to simmer for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour, until beans are cooked but not too soft.
Meanwhile, prepare the meat sauté. Heat 1 tablespoon bacon fat in a deep-frying pan, add the lamb and brown the meat on all sides on a medium heat. Sprinkle with a few thyme leaves and add the piment d’espelette. Add enough water just to barely cover the meat, bring to a boil on then lower heat. Season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside.
In another frying pan, brown the pork sausages with 1 tablespoon bacon fat on all sides and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside. In the same pan, pan-fry the pork shoulder steak until cooked and golden on both sides.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and sauté the onions and garlic. Retrieve the pork rind from the beans and chop it up into thick sticks, and add to the Dutch oven. Continue to cook for a few minutes, and then add the drained beans, discarding the bouquet garni and the cloved onion. Reserve bean stock. Place the garlic sausage aside. Add the chopped tomatoes, nutmeg, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and mix all the ingredients gently to avoid breaking the beans. Add enough lamb and beans stock, enough to just about cover the beans. Bring the Cassoulet to a boil, then lower heat and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the duck legs in a pan until golden and reserve the duck fat rendered. Set aside.
Set the oven on the broil setting, place lamb, sausages, pork and duck legs on the beans. Slice some of the sausages and pork if desired. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of duck fat over the breadcrumbs, some chopped parsley and grill in the oven until crust is golden, between 5 to 8 minutes (depending on oven strength).
Slightly adapted from Mimi Thorisson/Manger