A few weekends ago I got a craving for cassoulet: the day was cold and dreary and I was in the mood for a provencal French dish. It was a completely illogical desire: I've never spent time in the French countryside and I've never made cassoulet at home in my kitchen. After consuming cassoulet a few times at restaurants, I suddenly was ready to take a stab at making it on my own. Cassoulet is a French stew made with meat and white beans. Typically the duck or pork used is slowly cooked in its own fat days/weeks before making the stew. If the thought of slowly cooking meat in its own fat disgusts you have no fear, my recipe is a variation on the theme in which the meat is browned and cooked with the beans. A great one pot meal, this dish is perfect for a lazy, rainy Sunday when you have nothing to do but curl up with a blanket and watch movies. To make cassoulet for your Sunday dinner,
1 pound dried Great Northern beans
5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
1 3 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound kielbasa, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced peeled carrots
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Chopped fresh parsley
- Place beans in large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and soak beans 1 hour. Drain.
- Return beans to pan. Add enough cold water to cover beans by 3 inches. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until beans are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°F.
- Cook bacon in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to large bowl
- Discard all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot. Increase heat to medium-high. Working in batches, cook pork shoulder and kielbasa in pot until brown, about 8 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork and kielbasa to bowl with bacon.
- Add onions, celery and carrots to pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and thyme; sauté 1 minute.
- Mix in broth, tomatoes with juices and tomato paste; bring to boil.
- Stir in meats from bowl, then drained beans. Return to boil. Cover pot. Transfer to oven; bake until pork is tender, about 1 hour.
- Maintain oven temperature.
Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup beans and vegetables from pot to processor and purée. Return purée to pot. Stir in wine. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and refrigerate. Bring cassoulet to simmer before continuing.)
- Smooth top of cassoulet. Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan and oil in bowl. Sprinkle half of crumb mixture over cassoulet.
- Arrange bell pepper atop crumb mixture. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
- Bake cassoulet uncovered until pork and beans are very tender and topping is golden and crisp, about 45 minutes.
- Garnish cassoulet with parsley and serve.
Serves 8 to 10.