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Stews, Soups & Chili’s – The Series – Cassoulet

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    Stews, Soups & Chili’s – The Series – Cassoulet

    Staying with a European (French) stew theme, the next stew in the series is a Cassoulet, a generous and unexpected gift from my Secret Santa Orion (member ofelles). Doing one of these has indeed been on my wish list for quite some time, but sourcing the authentic ingredients can be a challenge. That said, what I received was a Cassoulet Kit from D’Artangnan, the specialty meat purveyor, that had all the ingredients in one box. Thus the recipe is theirs and made easy by providing all the proper ingredients.

    So what exactly is a Cassoulet? Essentially it’s like it sounds, it’s a rich, slow cooked casserole. Actually to be most accurate the word "casserole" is really the type of earthenware vessel these stews are generally cooked in. Originating in the south of France, they generally contain pork sausages, duck, goose and sometimes mutton and a local French white bean called Tarbais Beans.

    In France, Cassoulets are very popular and are sold at varying quality and price points. They’re often sold in cans and jars in supermarkets, grocery stores, and delicatessens. It’s probably not a stretch to find one on the shelf of a 7-11. The cheapest ones contain only beans, tomato sauce, sausages, and bacon. More expensive versions are likely to be cooked with goose fat and to include specialty sausages, lamb, goose, or duck confit.

    Like other French stews, this one traces its origins back to medieval times and is essentially a peasant dish. As the dish made its way into restaurants and into a more haute cuisine, other aromatic vegetables and herbs were added. Some even go as far as to top the dish with bread crumbs, something talked about later in this recipe.

    Regardless of how it’s made or morphed, the basic ingredients of duck, sausage and white beans make up what’s considered a classic Cassoulet. The one provided by D'Artangnan holds to that classic tradition. As mentioned above, this is their recipe using their ingredients. To make this attractive to someone who may not want to go to the trouble of sourcing all these ingredients, I make some suggested substitutions in the body of the recipe that I think would be just as delicious and hold true to the original. So let’s get out our kit and make a Cassoulet….

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    Cassoulet - (D'Artangnan Kit)

    Course. Lunch or Dinner.
    Cuisine. French
    Makes. 4 to 6 servings
    Takes. 30 minutes’ prep, 60 minutes’ for beans, 2-3 hours’ oven time

    Ingredients – Kit

    1 package French Tarbais Beans (substitute 2 cups Great Northern Whites)
    1- 6-ounce piece Ventreche bacon (substitute 6 oz. Italian Pancetta)
    1/4 cup duck fat (substitute unsalted European butter)
    3 confit duck leg quarters (chicken leg quarters smoked would be an excellent substitute)
    1 container duck and veal demi-glace (substitute a rich chicken or veal stock)
    1 package duck and Armagnac sausage (substitute 12 oz. link of chorizo or charice sausage)
    1 link French garlic sausage (substitute 12 oz. link venison garlic sausage)

    Ingredients – Additional

    4 cloves garlic, smashed
    1 medium onion, halved.
    3 whole cloves
    1 medium carrot, rough chopped
    1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
    1 – 32 oz. carton chicken stock
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Bouquet garni – 5 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns
    Cooking oil for initial browning

    Directions – Preparing the Beans
    1. The day before soak the beans in a pot of water with several inches of cover. Soak them for at least 24 hours, checking the water level.
    2. The day of the cook, drain the beans and add them to a large enameled cast iron pot. Take about half (or about 6 oz.) of the Ventreche bacon and add it to the top of the beans. Reserve the other half for another meal.
    3. Add the carrot, garlic cloves and bouquet garni to the beans. Press the pointed ends of the cloves and stick them in 1/2 of the onion, add that to the beans. Next add enough cool water to top the ingredients to cover at least 3 inches.
    4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a low simmer, uncovered, until the beans are just getting tender. Check them at about 45 minutes, should only take 1-hour total. Do not overcook the beans, they should be al dente and not mushy. They finish cooking in the stew.
    Directions – Preparing the Stew

    1. While the beans are cooking, prepare the meats. In a medium cast iron skillet brown the duck legs and Armagnac sausages in some cooking oil. Remove to a cutting board, let cool then cut the sausages into 1” slices and the duck leg quarters in half at the joints. Set aside.
    2. Take the French garlic sausage link and cut it into 1/4” slices and set it aside with the other meats.
    3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
    4. When the beans are done cooking, remove the half onion and the bouquet garni, discard both. Remove the bacon to a cutting board and cut into small cubes. Drain the beans into a colander.

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    5. In a small sauce pan, add the demi-glaze, tomato paste, finely chopped onion and 2 cups of chicken stock. Simmer on low while continuing to prepare the stew.

    Grease the bottom and sides of an enameled pot with the duck fat. Spread about half of the drained beans in a single layer along the bottom. To that add all the prepared meats in another layer. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over the top of the meats. Cover the meats with the remaining beans in a third layer.
    7. Pour half the demi-glace/stock mixture over the top of the stew. Add another tablespoon of the duck fat as well.

    Bake uncovered until the beans are very tender and the stew is heated though and bubbling, about 2-3 hours. Very important: check the stew in 1/2 hour intervals for signs of drying. If the mixture is too coarse add more of the demi-broth mixture. The end result should be firm but very moist. If it gets too pasty, continue to add more liquid. If you run out of the demi-broth, simply continue adding chicken stock.
    9. Continue to monitor for doneness. The meat just needs a good re-heat and the beans should be tender but holding together. If the beans start to get mussy it’s over done.
    10. To finish the cassoulet, crank the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour additional liquid onto the top for optimal moisture and bake uncovered for an additional 30-40 minutes. Ideally you want a crust to form on the top of the stew. Do not let it burn, check it often to assure its golden brown.

    11. Serve immediately with a nice side salad and a glass of Bordeaux.

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    A few thoughts and reaction to the kit;
    1. Excellent way to experience a Cassoulet without having to source the authentic ingredients. Also nice to have the confit duck already pre-cooked. That alone probably turns this into a 2-day preparation.
    2. To be honest, I did not like the French sausages. They were okay but had an off putting taste to me. Using chorizo, pork or venison sausages would improve the overall flavor profile for my palette.
    3. Although I love duck, chicken could easily be a good substitute in this dish. Pre-smoking would put it over the top and add an additional depth of flavor.
    4. Be aware that this stew dries out very easily. I had to add stock to the mixture about every 30 minutes during the cook, it drank it up like a sponge. Getting the right consistency, not too soupy but not to gummy, takes a little effort. That and getting the crust just right takes some proper timing to avoid burning.
    5. There are a lot of other recipes and variations on Cassoulets that have been developed over time. One recipe I ran across uses a bread crumb topping layer. That might be a great idea and better way to hold in moisture while providing a nice crunchy top. If I do one again, I think I’ll make it that way.
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    I again want to thank my friend Orion (member ofelles ) for his generous and excellent gift as my Secret Santa. The timing played right into this series of cooks. I really enjoyed cooking and finally getting to eat another classic French stew. With a few changes and variations, I think I could make this a part of my rotation.

    If this seems complicated it’s really not, rather it’s a simple and basic stew. If sourcing the ingredients making it authentic as possible is something you don’t want to be bothered with, then follow my suggested ingredients and make it your own.

    Enjoy this classic and delicious stew. Troutman gives this a big thumbs up and is outta here until next time !!!

    I am glad you enjoyed the gift. It makes it worth any and all effort. Like I told you in a PM, I freaked when I was paired with you. Eat well my friend and great write up!


      I've been wanting to make cassoulet but it seemed complicated. I'll either have to buy this kit or use your suggested substitutions.


      7-11 is still around? They haven't been in these parts for nearly 25 years.


      • Troutman
        Troutman commented
        Editing a comment
        Circle K ??

      • Craigar
        Craigar commented
        Editing a comment
        Unfortunately, no Circle K up this way either. Casey's is moving in and taking over quite a few places. Which is okay, they have pretty decent pizza. Especially their breakfast pizza. Kwik Shop used to reign supreme, but they have gone out of vogue when Kroger took over.

      I love cassoulet. I also love making it myself. Your substitutions are on point. Especially the chicken for the confit duck and the sausage. I use a traditional bratwurst (I know, sorry French folks). I often add leftover pulled pork to it. And I really like both Flageolet and Tarbais beans. Apparently, in France, this is something of a holy war (the type of bean). I’ve never done bread crumbs and I kinda think they are a cheating method to achieve the crust.

      Love the whole thing and love that your Secret Santa gift aligned with what you’re doing here.


        My brother in law was over last weekend. He's french. He was making cassoulet that night. Too bad I didn't get a taste. He's a good cook.


          Looks great. I always wanted to try that dish.


          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            You absolutely should. It really isn’t hard, just takes time.

          • Old Glory
            Old Glory commented
            Editing a comment
            It seems so intimidating. Plus I am OCD when it comes to doing a recipe correctly the first time through. Sourcing ingredients is a challenge as well. I once made miso soup from scratch. It cost $68 in ingredients tasted amazing but I could have bought a cup for $2.50 at the local Chinese restaurant. I'll give it a shot at some point.

          What a post and recipie Troutman
          this is on my to do list.


            There are huge debates in the South of France on whether tomato paste belongs in cassoulet. If you're from Toulouse, you use in; if you're from Castelnaudary, it's a sacrilege. What's funny (to me) is that they're about 30 miles apart.


            • Troutman
              Troutman commented
              Editing a comment
              It’s like using tomatoes in Texas chili 👍

            I may have to put this on my to do list while I'm off the last week of December. Thank you Troutman for posting this recipe.


              I had to stop for a few moments to just look at this - that looks perfect!

              I've tried cassoulet twice, the first time a total disaster - I tried a "traditional" recipe that had me lining a crock pot with pigskin. It was just gross, though the duck confit turned out great. The second time was less trad, but ended up a bit meh.

              I will absolutely be trying this kit out! Thanks so much.



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