Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 21, 2010

Value Shopper Cassoulet

This cassoulet is the long awaited, family friendly version of the now hoity-toity French country classic. Don’t tell anyone French about my version of the recipe–they will become agitated and possibly angry. Happily, cassoulet is mostly not a big family tradition in the States, and we can bowdlerize it anyway we want to (as we have done with so many dishes from so many cultures over the years).

Our fussy farm manager has a ‘thing’ about buying ridiculously cheap food in appallingly large quantities when he can find such things on deal at the supermarket. This recipe for cassoulet is for all of you out there looking for a way to use up the 0n-deal meat quickly and tastily. Cassoulet in general is good for everything except beef;, and if you aren’t fetishizing someone else’s culinary tradition, it can be fabulously inexpensive to make.

This takes less time than many recipes I have seen for cassoulet. But it still wants a lot of cooking. Do this one on the weekends. Cassoulet will feed all the hungry people coming in from the cold–so long as they aren’t keeping vegetarian.

Value Shopper Cassoulet

1 lb dried white beans, navy or cannellini say (or three cans of 14 oz beans, or two of the larger size)

2 quarts of stock, chicken or beef or mushroom all work nicely (I just start a veg stock when I start making the cassoulet, it’s done in 45 minutes–in time to flavor the beans and go into the oven as the braising liquid)

3-4 lbs of meat stuff, like a big tray of chicken thighs, or two whole chickens cut up, or a pound of kielbasa and a pork shoulder section, or turkey parts, or stewing lamb (some sausage with some other meat is really very good, but you shouldn’t have to make a special trip for it). If you’re working from a big hunk of meat, cut it into 1 1/2″ cubes–don’t worry about trimming the fat, you want that

3-4 strips of bacon

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 cup wine (any kind, optional)

freshly ground black pepper, salt, thyme

bread crumbs, panko, or cornbread crumbs

Get the beans simmering in one quart of stock and some water if they’re not already cooked. This takes about 1 1/2 hours and may be done days ahead if you like. If the beans are from a can, then simmer them very gently (after rinsing them well) in one quart of the stock–and add a couple of bay leaves to help mask the ‘can’ flavor.

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large, heavy bottomed pan, cook the bacon strips until well done and their fat is rendered out. Set the strips by, and begin searing the patted dry pieces of meat–one layer at a time, four minutes on a side minimum. When they’re done, fish them out, lay them on paper to drain and do another round until they’re all browned.

Now sauté the onions in the fat until they’re well browned. Toss in the garlic and get it fragrant. Remove the alliums and deglaze the pan with wine and tomato paste, or stock and tomato paste–reducing the liquid by half as you scrape up the goodies from the pan bottom.

Put some of the cooked beans in a the bottom of a dutch oven, or large deep casserole. Add the browned meat bits and any sausage you may wish to use, and coarsely crumbled bacon strips. Cover the meat with the onion mixture. Add black pepper and thyme and a little salt (the bacon and sausage boot up the salt quotient naturally) Put the rest of the beans on top of the onion layer. Add the deglazing liquid, and enough stock to come just below the top of the beans.

Sprinkle the cassoulet with a heavy layer of crumbs and place it in your slow oven, uncovered. After one hour, push the crumbs down into the simmering goop below. After two hours, you can think about eating this. It reheats well and this volume of cassoulet will feed about eight. Or use more beans and feed ten with it–or twelve.



  1. […] won’t give a recipe here for cassoulet. But I will say that if you want to make one, you shouldn’t have to send away in the mail for […]

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