This week’s Cook the Book Fridays recipe from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen was kind of epic. In so many senses of the word. Cassoulet is a slow-cooked (but not made in the slow cooker) casserole containing white beans and meat – typically duck confit, sausage and perhaps pork belly or goose. It hails from Southwest France (the regions around Toulouse, Carcassonne, Castelnaudary depending on who you listen to) and our vacation rental is smack bang in the middle of cassoulet country so I’m more than familiar with it. In fact, our pantry in France always has a jar of cassoulet as “emergency food” (if we arrive late or on a day when no stores are open) and it’s saved our tummies more than once! Wait – cassoulet in a JAR, I hear you ask? Yes, indeed and while it’s not the authentic dish, it’s pretty darned good!
We’ve also been to Castelnaudary and despite it being the height of summer, we managed to enjoy one of their authentic cassoulets (the things we do!):
The cassoulet is typically made in a cassole – a glazed earthenware dish – and we’ve also made the trek to cassole mecca – Poterie Not-Frères near Mas-Saintes-Puelles.
The family has been making the traditional cassoles here since 1947 and while their renown is world-wide, the operation is small and most definitely not touristy. We checked out the operation in silence – moving from the cassoles being shaped…
This one came home with us…
I didn’t have any leftover duck confit from a couple of weeks ago so I cheated (!) and used duck confit from an excellent local butcher. I also used a large hambone that we had in the freezer (“for soup” but I never got around to it) instead of the ham hock. I used Haricots Tarbais that I had from a recent trip to France so I was all set up with the right(ish) ingredients.
Notwithstanding the fact that I didn’t have to add on the extra 2 days to confit the duck, this STILL took me the better part of a day to make. I boiled the beans with the vegetables and cooked off the ham bone to make stock to use and stripped the bone of the meat, then partially cooked the sausages before I was ready to assemble the dish – layering the beans with the meats and topping it all with breadcrumbs (I only had Panko and I suspect this was not the time to use them because my dish did not look anything like David’s).
AFTER all that prep, the cassoulet cooks for around 3 hours (at a lower temp for the last couple of hours) and you need to break the crust that forms on top of the dish every now and then. I’m not sure of the reason for this but I do know that the cassoulet lost a lot of moisture through doing this and my finished dish did not end up as “saucy” as I would have liked.
I had saved some of the ham stock and when I was reheating leftovers, I used a splash of this to moisten the cassoulet and it worked well but next time, I might make even LESS of the recipe (I made 1/2 the quantity and it was enough for SO MANY meals all through the week!) so the cassole isn’t as full and I can add some more liquid at the start of the cooking process. In any case, whilst this was good – excellent really – I probably won’t make this again anytime soon and the next time I eat this, will probably be in France 😉 But a fun experience, for sure and it made the house smell divine!
Get the recipe for David Lebovitz’s cassoulet here or on p 195 of My Paris Kitchen.
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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “My Paris Kitchen” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.