Classic Country Cassoulet

The quintessential rustic farm dinner, cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked white bean stew that can be made with whatever meat is available, but is typically prepared with a combination of sausages, pork, and duck, goose or lamb. Our favorite version is made with garlicky pork sausage and duck confit. However you decide to prepare it, there’s no better supper for a crowd on a cold winter night. Serves 8.

For the Beans

4 cups of dried great northern or other white beans
1 ham hock (about 1/2 pound)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, peeled and halved
1 stalk celery, halved
5 sprigs thyme

  1. Rinse beans and soak them overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with the remaining ingredients. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain and remove the onion, carrot, celery and thyme sprigs.  Set beans aside to cool.
For the Cassoulet

1/2 pound thickly-sliced, good quality, bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound garlicky pork sausage, such as fresh Kielbasa (about 4 links), cut into 2″ pieces
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrot
8 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
cooked white beans (see above)
1 cup boneless, shredded duck confit (can be purchased at a gourmet store or ordered on-line)
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
4 cups duck or chicken stock, preferably homemade
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs blended with 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper

  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the fat begins to render (melt).  Add sausages and cook, turning to brown on all sides, for about 10 minutes.  Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook until the vegetables are tender.  Lower the heat to keep the vegetables from browning.  Add the garlic and cook slowly for at least 5 minutes more.  Remove the sausages when they are cooked through. (You can leave the bacon in – it won’t brown much more with the vegetables in the pan.)
  2. Add the cooked beans, duck confit, thyme and stock.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for several minutes to blend the flavors.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spoon the cassoulet into one large serving dish or 8 individual ramekins.  Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.  Bake (approximately 1 hour for a large dish or 20 minutes for individual ramekins) until the liquid is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned.

Time saver tip: Substitute 4 cans of well-drained cannellini beans for the dried beans.

Make ahead tip: Assemble the entire dish (including the breadcrumbs) up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake as directed in Step 3.

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