The only Cassoulet recipe you'll ever need.
by Gemma Driver
cc©balise42 via Flickr
There are countless lengthy and complicated cassoulet recipes, and at any one moment in South West France there are at least five arguments taking place about how best to produce the ultimate cassoulet. Perhaps creating this bean and meat stew became such a to-do because in the past the ingredients were precious and the most had to be made out of them, in terms of quantity and calories, as well as flavour.
But it is simple peasant fare, and you will get similar results from cooking it in various ways - complicated recipes don’t produce a superior result. Cassoulet is a really tasty, comforting winter meal. Here’s a simple, fuss-free way to make a great one:
To feed 2, (to bursting point) you will need:
• 1 tin of white haricot (or coco) beans, or the equivalent quantity of dried beans, which have been soaked overnight and then boiled with herbs, garlic and onion until soft. The latter is more flavoursome, if you have the time.
• Either a cast iron casserole pot or a frying pan and a glass or ceramic casserole pot. The advantage of the cast iron option is that you can do all the cooking in the one pot.
• 2 Toulouse or other coarse sausages.
• 2 strips of pork belly, 0.5-1cm thick (ventrèche).
• 2 tinned confit duck legs, (You could home-confit if you wanted to, but fried or roasted ilegs will also work).
• 1 onion, finely chopped.
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
• A good dollop of tomato purée or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped.
• Duck fat or olive oil and butter.
• A pint of water or, preferably, chicken stock.
• Optional white wine
What to do:
The key to this easy cassoulet is not lots of stages and processes, but to cook it for long enough for the liquid and fat to emulsify completely, into a thick, creamy sauce, and for a crispy crust to have formed.
• In either the cast iron pot or a frying pan, heat a couple of glugs of olive oil with a nugget of butter or a good blob of duck fat.
• Fry the sausages and pork
• Take the meat out, and gently fry the onions in the residual fat until they are soft.
• Stir in the tomatoes or purée and the garlic. You could add a glug of white wine at this point. If using a frying pan, put its contents into the casserole dish at this point.
• Put the meat in the pot, pour in all the beans, top up with the water or stock, to just cover the other ingredients.
• Lid on, cook the stew in a medium oven for at least 1 hour. Stir it occasionally and top up with water or stock as necessary, to keep it moist.
• When the cassoulet is ready, everything should be coated in creamy goodness, with no transparent liquid. Generously season according to your taste, and put back in a hot oven, uncovered, for 10 - 20 minutes, until a crispy crust has formed.
• Serve with a green salad, chunks of light baguette and a crisp white wine or strong red like a Cahors.
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