Cassoulet

My sister, who lives in France for a few months every year, and is a great cook, suggested that I read L’Appart, by David Lebovitz. The book is about the author’s trials and tribulations buying a home in Paris, after moving to France from San Francisco, California.

From Amazon: “When David Lebovitz began the project of updating his apartment in his adopted home city, he never imagined he would encounter so much inexplicable red tape while contending with perplexing work ethic and hours. Lebovitz maintains his distinctive sense of humor with the help of his partner Romain, peppering this renovation story with recipes from his Paris kitchen.”

The book, published in 2017, is a great read. It’s funny, sad, and maddening. It’s slightly reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s book, A Year in Provence, but it’s way more intense. And fortunately, my sister had a fairly mild experience buying her house in France.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Lebovitz’s writing, and he does have a great sense of humor, which prompted me to purchase his cookbook My Paris Kitchen, published before L’Appart, in 2014.

There are many wonderful recipes in the book, but I chose to make Cassoulet. I mean, why not?! There are so many different versions of it, and everybody claims theirs the best. To quote Andre Daguin, a famous chef of Gascony: “Cassoulet is not really a recipe, it’s a way to argue among neighboring villages of Gascony.”

I’ve had cassoulet with my sister in Carcassone, and then while traveling with my husband and Stephane of the now retired blog “My French Heaven, in Castelnaudary, in Southern France. That town claims cassoulet as its own. (Of course.)

Honestly, I preferred Mr. Lebovitz’s Cassoulet over those I’ve had in France.

Cassoulet
White Bean, Sausage, Duck Confit Casserole

2 pounds good-quality dried beans
2 pounds unsmoked ham hock (mine were sliced)
1 1/4 cups diced thick-cut pork belly or pancetta
2 carrots, peeled
2 onions, peeled and halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs thyme
Sea Salt
4 confit duck thigh with leg attached (I could only find legs, so I used 8)
1 pound fresh pork sausage, mine was a Toulouse variety
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
3 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil or walnut oil

Rinse the beans and soak them overnight covered in cold water.

The next day, put the ham hock in a separate large pot of water, bring it just to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to a steady simmer, and cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender and pulls easily from the bone. Remove the ham hock from the water and set it on a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, shred it into large bite-size pieces, and refrigerate it. Discard the liquid.

Drain the beans; put them in the pot you used to cook the ham hock and cover with cold water. Add the ham bones to the pot of beans along with the pork belly, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring the beans just to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat so the beans are simmering gently, and cook until the beans are soft and tender, about 1 hour. As the water boils away during cooking, add more water as necessary. Taste the beans toward the end of cooking, and add up to 1 tablespoon of salt, if necessary.

While the beans are cooking, scrape any excess fat from the duck confit pieces and fry the duck in a skillet over medium heat until the pieces are golden brown and crisp on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes per side.

Transfer the duck pieces to a plate and pour off any excess fat from the pan. Prick the sausages a few times with a sharp nice, then fry the sausages in the same pan just to brown them on the outside; they don’t need to be fully cooked through. Set the sausages on the plate with the duck pieces. When cool enough to handle, cut the sausages on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces. Cut each duck thigh into three pieces; cut the drumstick off, and then use a knife to divide the thigh portion into two equal pieces, cutting it in half by holding the knife parallel to the bone.

When the beans are done, turn off the heat. Discard the bay leaves, thyme, and ham bones, and pluck out the carrots, onions, and garlic cloves. But the carrots into cubes and mix them back into the beans, along with the shredded meat from the ham hock. Purée the onion and garlic in a blender with a bit of the bean liquid until smooth. Stir the mixture back into the bean mixture, season with pepper and taste, adding more salt if desired.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with an oven rack in the top third of the oven.

In a wide casserole that holds at least 8 quarts, assemble the cassoulet. Ladle a layer of the bean mixture and some of the liquid into the casserole. Put half of the duck pieces and half of the sausage evenly spaced oven the beans. Add another layer of beans, and then put the rest of the duck and sausage pieces on top. Add the remaining beans and enough of the liquid so that the beans are barely floating in the liquid. (Refrigerate any extra bean liquid, as you may need it later.)

Toss the bread crumbs with the oil until thoroughly moistened, then spread the bread crumbs evenly on top of the cassoulet. Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour. After an hour, use the side of a large spoon to break the crust on top in several places. Decrease the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and bake the cassoulet for another 2 1/2 hours, breaking the crust two more times while cooking. Remove the cassoulet from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. If you want to serve the cassoulet reheated, as many prefer it, let it cool to room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, and then refrigerate it.

To serve the cassoulet reheated, remove the cassoulet from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to reheat it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Break through a piece of the top of the cassoulet, and if you don’t see much liquid surrounding the beans beneath the surface, add some of the reserved bean liquid – just enough to moisten the insides a little, about 1/2 cup. Bake the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s completely heated through. If the topping isn’t crusty, turn the oven up to broil – if you’re using a ceramic dish, turn the oven just to 450 degrees F, and watch carefully until the top is browned to your liking Remove the cassoulet from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Serve the cassoulet in its dish at the table. It requires no other accompaniments, although a glass of Armagnac after (or in place of) dessert is considered obligatory to aid digestion. As is a pat on the back for making the cassoulet.

This is the best cassoulet I’ve had. The meats are spectacular, the broth and beans are perfect, and I love the crust on top. Five stars!

By Published On: January 8th, 202435 Comments on Cassoulet

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

35 Comments

  1. angiesrecipes January 8, 2024 at 6:17 AM - Reply

    I have never had a cassoulet, but reading through the ingredients, I know I would enjoy it too.

    • Chef Mimi January 8, 2024 at 8:41 AM - Reply

      It’s quite hearty, but with great flavors. I like the mix of meats.

  2. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen January 8, 2024 at 9:14 AM - Reply

    This is always such a beautiful dish, and you’ve done it proud Mimi! My favorite part is the crust!

    • Chef Mimi January 8, 2024 at 9:15 AM - Reply

      I do love that part, too!

  3. David Scott Allen January 8, 2024 at 9:15 AM - Reply

    I have made cassoulet several times and it is really good — love it — but quite heavy. Makes me wish I worked in the fields after eating it! I love all the meats and the broth is outstanding!

    David’s story reminds me of Under the Tuscan Sun.

    Years before I made my first, I bought dried organic tarbais beans in preparation… to make mine as authentic as possible. But it took me years to get to making it. In the meantime, the organic beans hatched some sort of insidious beetle that ended up being all throughout my pantry. At first we saw a few and blamed a Trader Joe’s basil plan for bringing them in. But then one day, I was in the bean section and the bag of once white beans was fully black with beetles. I was so disgusted. You can only imagine how much got thrown away that day. There were a couple of beetles in a crack that I couldn’t get out, so I glued them in place. While not the mosquito in amber from Jurassic Park, it does bear a vague resemblance!

    • Chef Mimi January 8, 2024 at 9:41 AM - Reply

      Oh goodness! I saw and loved the movie (I love Diane Lane) but didn’t read the book. Now I want to! Cassoulet isn’t “my” kind of meal. But I just had to make it once. Fortunately my husband made his way through the duck without complaining and enjoyed the many servings of cassoulet!

  4. ajeanneinthekitchen January 8, 2024 at 9:52 AM - Reply

    C’est manifique!

  5. Travel Gourmet January 8, 2024 at 11:21 AM - Reply

    Wow! The best you’ve had. I must try it. I love cassoulet and I’ve read some of David Lebovitz’s stuff and know he’s great.

    • Chef Mimi January 8, 2024 at 2:57 PM - Reply

      He’s great, funny, and extremely shy and humble, if you’ve ever seen his instagram videos! If you love cassoulet I’d encourage you to make his version.

  6. Charlie DeSando January 8, 2024 at 2:21 PM - Reply

    A classic, very well done!!

    • Chef Mimi January 8, 2024 at 2:57 PM - Reply

      Thanks, Charlie!

  7. bernadette Laganella January 8, 2024 at 3:46 PM - Reply

    Love cassoulet and Davis Leibovitz. Wonderful recipe.

    • Chef Mimi January 9, 2024 at 7:35 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Bernadette! He’s an interesting character!

  8. Tandy | Lavender and Lime January 8, 2024 at 9:57 PM - Reply

    We’ve had cassoulet in Toulouse as well, and they too claim it as their own. I’ve even bought a huge tin of it back from France. And made my own. A true labour of love and yours sounds so good. Happy 2024 Mimi :)

    • Chef Mimi January 9, 2024 at 7:36 AM - Reply

      I love all of the different parts of cassoulet. Unfortunately I couldn’t find uncured ham, but I imagine the flavors ended up pretty much the same. And duck confit is wonderful!

  9. paulineandneil3147 January 9, 2024 at 5:02 PM - Reply

    Making cassoulet takes a very dedicated soul to the cause I think Mimi. When I was dining in a restaurant in Montpellier last year, the woman at the table next to us was eating a cassoulet, it looked extremely hearty and very large. Definitely a Winter dish, and yours looks so authentic. Well done. I would love to read My Paris Kitchen one day. Love all your French inspired posts.

    • Chef Mimi January 9, 2024 at 5:22 PM - Reply

      Thank you so much Pauline! It’s just a little time consuming, but I do love how all the parts come together so well! Happy New Year!

  10. sherry January 10, 2024 at 1:03 AM - Reply

    this sounds incredibly hearty! not for a hot and humid brisbane summer :=) Every book i’ve ever read about doing up places in italy or france (by foreign owners) seems absolutely fraught with angst!

    • Chef Mimi January 10, 2024 at 2:09 PM - Reply

      Angst! A good word!

  11. spicedblog January 10, 2024 at 6:19 AM - Reply

    Oh this really is the epitome of French comfort food! And that quote from Andre Daguin really nails it. It’s like the French version of chocolate chip cookies. :-) This version sounds delicious, Mimi – the only problem is there isn’t a bowl of it in front of me right now!

    • Chef Mimi January 10, 2024 at 1:33 PM - Reply

      Yes, I love the quote! So funny, the Italians and the French. I don’t think people fight over the original black pudding. Oh well. It keeps things interesting!

  12. sarchakra January 10, 2024 at 8:44 PM - Reply

    This looks so wholesome. Unfortunately the duck we get here is so fatty- it has a strange smell which seems so off putting. When I lived in UK, I always used to go for the duck dishes when I ate out. Strange enough, there was no such smell there. I’ve always wondered about that.

    • Chef Mimi January 11, 2024 at 8:04 AM - Reply

      Very interesting! Is it a more wild variety? I know very little about duck, except that I like it!

  13. ingoodflavor January 11, 2024 at 9:16 PM - Reply

    I have never had the pleasure of eating cassoulet. It looks rich and delicious! I enjoy hearty stick to the rib dishes.

    • Chef Mimi January 12, 2024 at 6:33 PM - Reply

      If you do, this would be perfect for you! A bit on the hefty side for me, but I really wanted to make it!

  14. Healthy World Cuisine January 12, 2024 at 8:13 PM - Reply

    A recipe made with love! So much care went into the preparation and I bet the flavors were phenomenal. Going to check this book out- thanks for the idea.

    • Chef Mimi January 13, 2024 at 9:05 AM - Reply

      Of course! I’ve got lots of other recipes bookmarked in this cookbook. Can’t wait!

  15. carrietalkingmeals January 14, 2024 at 2:42 AM - Reply

    Wow, this looks so incredible and hearty! I rarely cook with duck, but I love it. Thank you for inspiring me!

    • Chef Mimi January 14, 2024 at 3:11 PM - Reply

      The good thing is that you can just buy duck confit – they’ve already done the work for you! Duck breasts aren’t at all challenging, but special care has to be taken with the skin. That’s all!

  16. Jeff the Chef January 14, 2024 at 9:46 AM - Reply

    What a labor of love! I have fond memories of a restaurant in Toulouse that served a cassoulet that I loved. I’ve never dreamed of making it at home, but I can’t see why not. It sounds like fun. If I do, this is the recipe that I’m going to work from! Thanks! (I’m guessing you bought the duck, rather than making your own confit? I can’t imagine where I’ll find it … that’ll be interesting in itself.)

    • Chef Mimi January 14, 2024 at 3:14 PM - Reply

      Yes, I bought the duck confit from one of my online resources – Lobel’s or D’Artagnan – can’t remember which. I have confit’d duck before and it’s no big deal, just time consuming! I find much of the traditional/authentic cassoulet I’ve had in France quite blah. Lebovitz’s recipe perked it up a bit, but I’d still add some more thyme! And, get a really good sausage, of course.

  17. Raymund January 16, 2024 at 3:43 PM - Reply

    Mimi, your Cassoulet journey is seriously impressive! From conquering Parisian apartment woes to dethroning French village champions with David Lebovitz’s recipe, you’re a culinary Indiana Jones! Very impressive

    • Chef Mimi January 17, 2024 at 8:10 AM - Reply

      Hahahahahaha! You’re very funny! It was fun to make. And it made a lot! Now we’ve got a freezer full.

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