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Franco-American Food; A New Cassoulet

May 18, 2020

The classic French Cassoulet recipe starts with soaked and cooked Flageolet beans. They hold their shape well even after many hours of cooking. You can use soaked white beans, just soak until rehydrated, and skip the cooking ahead step.

  • Cooked Flageolet beans → soaked, uncooked white beans
Cassoulet typically uses Flageolet, but you can substitute white beans

Grab a heavy-bottomed pot (a Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot) and lardons. Lardons are cubes of cured, unsmoked pork belly or pork fatback. If they are smoked, they are lardons fumés. You can use thick-cut Pancetta or bacon cut into strips or small cubes.

  • Lardons or Lardons Fumé → pancetta or bacon
A container of lardons fumes
France’s version of bacon

Render the fat and par-cook the lardons/pancetta/bacon.

Lardons sauteeing in a dutch oven
No need to crisp, just render the fat

Dice well-cleaned leeks and carrots.

  • Leeks → sweet onions

Add the aromatics (vegetables) to the pot.

Saute to sweat the aromatics until they just begin to release their moisture and soften.

Throw in a small head of garlic if you have one. If not, don’t sweat it.

A small head of garlic over a pan of sautéed vegetables
Sweat it. Or don’t.

Open a can of whole, peeled tomatoes…

Can of organic whole peeled tomatoes

And crush them.

Hand crushing a tomato
You could use a wooden spoon, but why?

Add to the sweating vegetables.

Vegetables caramelizing in a pan
Be fond of your food

At this point, you’ll start to see your vegetables caramelizing the bottom of the pot. This is called fond. Those little bits of sweet caramelization will give the sauce body, depth and make it tasty.

Jar of Herbes de Provence
A classic combination of French herbs.

A few shakes of Herbes de Provence is trés authentique. It’s a mix of thyme, lavender, oregano and rosemary. You can substitute and combination that suits you.

Garlic sausage is the classic addition to Cassoulet, but if you like it a bit Americanized, try thickly sliced chunks of smoky sausage.

  • Garlic sausage → smoked sausage, Keilbasa,

Add them to what you already have going in the Cassoulet pot.

Sliced smoked sausage
A smokier version than the traditional

Add the cooked Flageolets if you could find some along with their cooking liquid, or the soaked and uncooked white beans to the pot of Cassoulet makings.

There should be enough liquid to almost cover the beans. If there isn’t, add some chicken stock, veg stock or water.

Cooked Flageolet beans.
Back to tradition with par-cooked Flageolet beans.

Throw in a few pinches of good quality sea salt or Kosher salt. Go skimpy if you are worried…uou can always adjust later.Sea salt

Typically, duck is the classic Cassoulet poultry ingredient, but par-cooked dark meat chicken quarters work just fine. The dark meat is much like duck and the long-slow govern simmer makes them fall-apart tender.

Add them to the pot.

Patrially roasted chicken thighs and legs
No duck?  Choose chicken.
A blue pot with beans, sausage and chicken stewing
Put it in the oven and let it simmer for a while.

Cover and place on the middle rack in the oven and simmer at °325 for about 2 hours. Check once in a while to make sure there’s enough liquid to keep the Cassoulet from burning. If the lid isn’t tight-fitting, you may have to add liquid as it simmers. If the pot is too dry after the initial cooking, it could dry up or burn after the lid is removed for the final cooking time.

A blue dutch oven with Cassoulet on the stove
Ready to top.

After 2 hours, remove the cover and sprinkle on a big handful of breadcrumbs (or 2 small handfuls). Place back in the oven and cook, uncovered, for about another hour.

A pot of Cassoulet topped with crunchy breadcrumbs
Just about ready to eat.

When you’re ready to serve, a good shower of fresh flat-leaf parsley provides a nostalgic garnish with a vegetal, herby touch.

A full bowl of Cassoulet with parsley garnish
A just-about classic Cassoulet

Cassoulet lends itself well to a variety of wine styles and varietals. Fruity, balanced southern-French blends are naturals, as are more herbaceous whites from the Loire and aromatically floral Rhône whites or Provençal-style rosés.

Sides of cool salads and seasonal fruits are the best accompaniments to this hearty, belly, heart and soul-filling French classic.