This classic cassoulet de Castelnaudary is a slow-simmered stew of white beans, sausage, duck confit, and pork that originated in southern France. It’s comfort food at its finest.
Cassoulet originated as humble and hearty peasant fare in the south of France that’s since become a revered staple of French cuisine. And for good reason. The slow-simmered stew made with white beans, duck confit, sausages, and pork requires some planning and plenty of patience, but what results is well worth the wait. (And a bottle of your best French red.)–Angie Zoobkoff
Classic Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
- 1 3/4 pounds dried white beans
- 1 10 1/2 oz smoked pork sausage
- 1/2 raw semi-salted pork knuckle or whole ham hock, rinsed in cold water
- 1 large carrot peeled
- 1 medium onion peeled and studded with 2 cloves
- 1 medium mixed bunch of herbs such as parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and sage, tied together (bouquet garni)
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- One piece pork rind (optional)
- 4 store-bought or homemade confit duck legs
- 1/2 boned lamb shoulder cut into 4 pieces
- 2 Toulouse sweet Italian, or kielbasa sausages
- 7 ounces tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns crushed
- 1/4 cup dried white bread crumbs
- 4 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large bowl, soak the dried beans in plenty of cold water for 6 to 12 hours. Drain.
- Using the tip of a paring knife, prick the smoked pork sausage several times.
- In a medium saucepan combine the sausage with the pork knuckle or ham hock. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Remove the sausage, cover it with a damp dish towel, and continue to cook the knuckle 30 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set the knuckle aside in its cooking water.
- In a large saucepan, combine the beans, carrot, onion, bouquet garni, 2 garlic cloves, and the pork rind, if using. Cover with plenty of cold water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. After 30 minutes, skim the surface, add a little cold water if necessary, and transfer the knuckle from its cooking water to the bean mixture. Cook, still at a very gentle simmer, 30 minutes more, skimming if necessary.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, sear the duck legs and pieces of lamb until golden on all sides. Transfer the duck to a plate. Add the lamb to the beans and cook for 30 minutes more.
- With the tip of a paring knife, prick the Toulouse, Italian, or kielbasa sausages in a few places.
- In the same skillet over medium-low heat, brown the Toulouse, Italian, or kielbasa sausages evenly on all sides. Add to the plate with the duck legs.
- After the beans have been simmering for 1 1/2 hours, stir in the tomatoes and crushed peppercorns and cook 30 minutes more.
- Add the duck legs and Toulouse, Italian, or kielbasa sausages to the bean mixture and cook 30 minutes more.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF (163ºC).
- Remove the carrot, onion, bouquet garni, garlic, and pork rind, if using, and discard. Carefully peel the skins from both types of sausage and cut the sausages into slices. Remove and shred the meat from the pork knuckle or ham hock, discarding any bones.
- Dip the remaining garlic clove in fine salt and rub it all over the insides and base of a 4-quart (1.3.8-l) earthenware or ceramic shallow baking dish. Tip the beans and lamb, duck legs, and knuckle meat into the dish. Taste and adjust the seasoning and arrange the sausage slices over the top, burying them slightly in the beans.
- In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the parsley and scatter over the surface of the cassoulet. Bake until the topping is golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve straight from the dish.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This cassoulet was simply divine. It exceeded everything my imagination had built a true homemade cassoulet up to be. The rich meats each carried their own flavors and were perfectly tender. Combined with the creamy beans, this is elegant comfort food at its finest.
I used a smoked pork sausage in place of the Morteau, a whole ham hock, and Italian sausage in place of the Toulouse. My bouquet garni contained thyme, parsley, and oregano. I did not use the pork skin.
The recipe worked perfectly as written. The ham hock was a bit unwieldy (and unsightly), plus I was skeptical everything was going to fit into my dish, so at the very end, I removed the ham hock and pulled the meat off in chunks and added them back to the pot of beans and meats before pouring into my Dutch oven. This worked well, as everything fit (barely). Plus I can’t see how we would have been able to get the meat off the hock when it was just plonked whole in the middle of the cassoulet. It makes a very large dish and barely fit in my 3-quart dutch oven.
Easily serves 8.
Originally published February 04, 2020