Cassoulet, named after the earthenware vessel, 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 giving it aunique 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 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.**
My friend Bertrand 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!!
Here are the visual steps to make a great cassoulet!
- Gather all your ingredients and have them ready all at once. As the French say “mise en place” is all the items measured, cut, peeled, sliced and ready to go when you start a dish.
- Add the cut meats together – bacon and pork shoulder.
- Add the allspice, salt and pepper to the meat mixture and coat well.
- Rinse the beans and place in a large pot with enough water to cover and simmer for 20 minutes then drain.
- In a large oven safe pot with a lid ( I love my Le Creuset dutch oven) add the beans, vegetable broth, tomatoes, meats and tied herbs. Cover and cook for two hours in the oven.
- After two hours, add the red wine and cook one more hour or until the meat and beans are fork tender.
Notes from above:
*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)
If you are a fan of interesting stew type dishes here are some I think you find very exotic with some great flavors to explore. Vietnamese Beef Stew (bò sốt vang) is one amazing dish with flavors I have never combined until my friend Thanh from Hanoi gave me her recipe after I took a cooking class in her home. My family’s favorite for Saint Patrick’s Day is Guinness beef stew with its hearty rich broth. Growing up in Panamá we had our own version of our Panamanian beef stew that is our family’s Latin style stew. If you are a spicy food lover then you have to try this dish from Northern region of India: spicy lamb stew: Rogan Josh. Enjoy these or bookmark them for later. I’d love to hear from you if you try them!
- 1 lbs Great Northern Beans dried
- 3 cups Vegetable broth
- 1 cups red wine
- 1 onion cut into chunks
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes canned type
- 3 carrots sliced into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 lb garlic sausage partially cooked and sliced
- 1 lbs pork shoulder cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1/2 lb slab bacon cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 Tbsp parsley 6 whole fresh sprigs
- 2 Tbsp thyme 6 whole fresh sprigs
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 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 (bacon and pork shoulder) 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 in the oven.
Uncover and add the wine.
Continue to cook for an additional hour or until the beans and meat are fork tender.