I live in Atlanta, where it’s just as likely to be 65 degrees and sunny on a February day as it is to be 25 and windy. Today, it’s 25. The small nonprofit where I work is housed in the basement of a church, and the heat down here is about as reliable as the city bus system (read: not at all!). Though I’ve become something of a winter wuss since moving south two years ago, I’m not ashamed to admit that I often wear fingerless gloves while typing on my computer and nestle a space heater dangerously close to my feet.
I’m cooooold! And right about now I want to dive into that roasting pan full of smoky meat, creamy white beans, and crispy breadcrumbs. Wouldn’t you like to just dog paddle around in all that brothy goodness? Soak it up with a crusty hunk of bread?
During the long, dark days of December and January, Anthony and I decided we wanted to give cassoulet a try. But, as is so typical of us, we can never just stick to the darn recipe. We love duck, but had trouble finding it and didn’t have the patience to confit it ourselves. The first time, we tried making it with some smoked pork butt we had in the freezer. The second time, we threw in a few links of lamb sausage and some expiring rosemary. The third time, we were out of the smoked pork, so we used fresh pork butt and added pimenton to recreate that incredible smoky flavor. Each time we made this dish, it turned out differently. But every time, it was delicious! (You really can’t go wrong with meat, beans, wine, aromatics, and spices!) We wanted to share the recipe–a compilation of all we learned over this winter cooking adventure–but we didn’t feel like we could call it traditional cassoulet. It’s cassoulet-esque, or as we’ve termed it: Cassoulesque!
Whether you’re absolutely covered in snow (Mom and Maggy) or heading into a weekend of chilly weather (me), this dish is pure comfort. No matter what kind of meat you have on hand or can find at your local butcher, I promise that if you simmer it along with all this other good stuff, it’ll turn out great! Happy (warm!) weekend cooking!
- 2 pounds dried cannelini beans
- 2 whole chicken leg/thighs, skin removed
- 2 pounds pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 6 andouille or hot Italian sausage links
- 6 strips thick bacon
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 3 medium celery stalks, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed in your hand
- 1 teaspoon pepper flakes
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup olive oil
- Soak beans in 3 quarts of water in a large bowl 8 hours or overnight*; drain and rinse
- Sprinkle chicken and pork chunks with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry bacon until almost crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and add sausages; sauté until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from pan. When cool enough to handle, cut sausages and bacon into 2-inch pieces. Add chicken to empty hot pan and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides; 6 to 8 minutes; remove from pan and set aside. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, add pork chunks to pan; cook turning once or twice until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes per batch.
- Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat; add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, pimenton, thyme, and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add rosemary, bay leaves, and wine; simmer until wine is reduced by half, several minutes.
- Add beans, pork chunks, chicken, and enough water to cover, 6 to 7 cups. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until beans and pork are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove chicken and when cool enough to handle, separate meat from bones. Add tomatoes to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour bean mixture into a large roasting pan. Add sausages, bacon, and chicken to the pan. (Can be covered and refrigerated a couple of days; return to room temperature.)
- About an hour before serving, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix breadcrumbs, parsley, oil, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle crumbs over casserole; bake until casserole is bubbly and crumbs are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let stand a few minutes and then serve.