Cassoulet is a traditional peasant dish from France. It is often served in French fine dining here in the US. I have had it several times and it is a very filling and comforting winter dish that pleases a crowd. I decided to review a few recipes and feed it to my family.
I used chicken instead of duck (duck being traditional ) but I highly recommend using duck fat to saute the meats and vegetables in this dish. I also chose to soak my beans, which is a method that I have used for ten years. I chose to add Kombu seaweed to the beans while they soaked and cooked to reduce the gas that can be associated with consuming beans and adds iron, iodine, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
You will need:
1 lbs cassoulet or any white beans
2 celery stalks
1 head garlic ( whole and you can take out or chopped and will be cooked into the stew)
handful of parsley
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons duck fat ( bacon fat or ghee )
2 garlic sausages
4 chicken thighs bone in and skin on
Good chunk of salted pork ( 8 ounces)
2 tbs vinegar
4 cups broth or water ( or combination of both)
3 packs of gelatin
Rinse beans and put in a bowl with fresh water until beans are covered by at least 2 inches and add in a strip of Kombu and 2 tbs vinegar. Soak 14-42 hours, the longer the better.
Pour all three packs of gelatin into your water or broth that you will use to cook the beans. Begin by melting the duck fat in a large dutch oven and brown meats one type at a time but not crowding the dutch oven. The chicken, sausages, and pork fat will not be fully cooked but should be browned on all sides. Take meats out when browned and put aside in a big bowl for later. Do this with each meat separately. Next, add in the onions and cook until translucent but not burnt. The onions will pick up the flavor and color of the browned meats. When the onions are done remove them and most of the oil leaving about 1 tbs of oil at the bottom of the dutch oven. Add in the drained beans, garlic, carrot, celery, spices ( put them in a cotton spice bag for easy removal). Add in the water or broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on. Set the oven to 300 degrees when the 45 minutes are almost up. Turn the burner off and take out the carrots and celery if you choose but it absolutely ok to each them. Take out the bay leaves and cloves, they are not great to chomp down on. Put all the meats into the pot making sure the chicken is on top so the skin will brown well. If the beans are not fully covered by juices then add in a bit more water. Place in the oven without the lid for 5 hours. You can check after 3 hours and jostle the beans and crust that develops on the top. The crust is the tasty part and make sure the chicken is skin up at the top the whole cooking process.
I highly recommend serving with a crisp bitter green salad that is dressed with pickled goodies ( I used pickled red onions here) , fermented vegetables ( I used red kraut here) and olive oil. The bitter bit and vinegar based vegetables cut through the heavy rich dish.