Cassoulet, named after the earthenware vessel on which it is served, is an aromatic not to mention hearty bean and meat stew guaranteed to warm your heart and your stomach during the cold winter months of the northern hemisphere. Cassoulet is a truly rustic dish with a blend of aromatic and savory spices that impart upon this dish a unique and intense flavor. Despite the unique combination of herbs and spices, the flavor is subtle and delicate, one could even say soothing. This is one of my favorite things to eat on those days when the temperature hovers around 20F. The key to a perfect cassoulet is the slow cooking process that tenderizes the meat and the beans and infuses the stew with its rich flavor. Your house will be filled with the aroma of thyme and allspice. Believe me, your mouth will water for hours. One of the most debated aspects in the preparation of cassoulet is the choice of meats. My personal preference is Italian sausage, bacon and pork shoulder cut into bite-size pieces.
Cassoulet is a close cousin to the Brazilian dish Feijoada * or the Spanish Fabada Asturiana.**
It was my friend Bertrand who introduced me to cassoulet many years ago. The first time he offered it to me I innocently said “This smells great, what is cassoulet?” In his matter of fact French way he said ” Cassoulet is cassoulet!” Okay then, not what I would call a descriptive answer, but in the face of an aroma that beckoned me loudly I had no other choice but to try it. I ate the whole bowl.
I recently made this dish for a fundraiser/contest at the University where I work. Although I did not win the main prize, I was voted most unique. I’ll take that any day!!
*Feijoada – A Brazilian stew made with black beans and pork.
** Fabada Asturiana – A white bean and pork stew seasoned with saffron. Indigenous to the Principality of Asturias (Northwest Spain)
- 2 lbs. Great Northern Beans
- 6 cups Vegetable broth
- 2 cups of red wine
- 1 large onion cut into chunks
- 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
- 6 medium carrots sliced into ½" pieces
- 1 lb. Italian sausage partially cooked and sliced
- 2 lbs. pork shoulder cut into chunks
- 1 lb. slab bacon cut into chunks
- 10-12 sprigs of parsley
- 10-12 sprigs of thyme
- 1½ tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Preheat your oven to 250F.
- Tie the thyme and parsley sprigs with butcher's twine. (This will be added to the casserole)
- Place all the cut meat in a large bowl and add the allspice, salt and pepper and coat well.
- Rinse the beans and place in a large pot with enough water to cover on medium heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes and drain.
- In a large oven safe casserole place the beans, vegetable broth, tomatoes, meats and tied herbs.
- Cover and cook for about two hours.
- Uncover and add the wine.
- Continue to cook for an additional hour or until the beans and meat are fork tender.