Cassoulet

Cassoulet: This is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes lamb and white haricot beans.

Cassoulet

Makes 12 servings

Equipment:

Large (minimum 6 quart) slow cooker

Ingredients:

1 smoked ham hock
2 cups/500 ml dried white navy beans, soaked, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon/15 ml vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, peeled and diced
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons/10 ml dried rosemary leaves
4 cups/1 L chicken stock or water (approximately)
1 tablespoon/15 ml salt
4 cloves garlic, put through a press
1/2 teaspoon/2 ml cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon/2 ml dried thyme leaves
2 pounds/1 kg boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 4 pieces
1/8 teaspoon/0.5 ml each ground cinnamon, allspice and cloves
1 lamb shank (about 1 pound/500 g), cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons/25 ml tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 pound/500 g kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) slices

Bread Crumb Topping:

2 cups/500 ml fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup/125 ml finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup/50 ml melted butter

Preparation:

  1. In slow cooker stoneware, combine ham hock and beans. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened. Add rosemary and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to slow cooker stoneware. Add chicken stock to cover beans. Cover and cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours, until beans are tender.
  2. In a bowl, combine salt, garlic, peppercorns and thyme. Rub mixture into pork. Place pork in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). On a plate, combine cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Roll lamb shanks in mixture and place, narrow end up, on a broiling pan. Scrape excess salt from pork shoulder and place on same broiling pan. Roast in preheated oven for 1 hour.
  4. Remove ham hock from beans. Remove tough skin and shred meat. Discard skin and bone. Cover and refrigerate meat. Stir tomato paste and bay leaves into bean mixture.
  5. Cut roasted pork into 1 inch (2.5 cm) squares and add along with lamb shanks to bean mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours. Remove lamb shanks from mixture and scrape meat from bones. Discard bones and return meat to beans. Stir in kielbasa and reserved meat from ham hock (see tips, below). Transfer mixture to baking dishes, if necessary.
  6. Bread Crumb Topping: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). In a bowl, combine ingredients. Sprinkle over cassoulet and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Make ahead:

This dish can be partially prepared the night before it is cooked. Complete Steps 1 and 2, cooking beans overnight. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, continue cooking as directed.

Tips:

Using the slow cooker to make cassoulet makes it a manageable project. Cook the beans and marinate the pork overnight (Steps 1 and 2). The next morning, continue cooking as directed.

This is a large quantity of cassoulet, and when the sausage and ham meat is added, it may not fit comfortably in the slow cooker stoneware. I have a gargantuan baking dish, Mexican in origin, that I use for the final assembly. You may need to transfer the bean mixture to two large baking dishes before adding the bread crumb topping. If you are serving this as a dinner dish and have enough pottery, consider spooning the cassoulet into individual-serving-size ovenproof tureens. Add the topping and bake as directed.