This year, however, after reading that cassoulet is the ultimate Dutch oven dish, I figured I had to try it, and try it early this year.
Another hold up in my mission was, well, the ingredients in cassoulet. Not only are many of them hard to find, and therefore, not all that cheap, those ingredients are also extremely fatty meats that are not all that appetizing.
To make up for this fact, I mercifully found a vegetarian cassoulet. Only that seemed pretty boring.
So, I did what anybody — well, one other notable foodie at least — would do, I reverse engineered the vegetarian cassoulet to add the amounts and types of meats I wanted. I settled on pancetta and andouille sausage.
For the vegetarians, these can easily be skipped and my assumption that it would be boring was wrong. For the meat eaters, feel free to add duck fat, duck legs, salt pork, pork shoulder, chicken thighs, or any of the variety of meats that appear in the multitude of recipes for this French classic.
I did what tasted best to me, and dear reader, it was amazing.
I won’t lie, it’s time consuming, and the recipe can be tweaked in hundreds of ways to suit one’s tastes, but I can definitely see why cassoulet has the reputation it does, especially in a Dutch oven.
Here’s what I did, adapting the Epicurious vegetarian recipe:
For the cassoulet
- 8 oz. pancetta
- 3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced
- 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped (I used more)
- 1 T. dried thyme
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- ⅛ t. ground cloves
- 12 to 16 oz. andouille sausage, sliced
- 16 oz. dried cannellini or great northern beans, soaked overnight
- 1 quart broth, vegetable or chicken
- 4 c. fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (about 1 baguette) (I actually did this and it was much better, and the bread can be days old as well; just tear bread into chunks and blend well for about a minute)
- ⅓ c. olive oil
- 1 T. chopped garlic (I didn’t measure)
- ¼ c. chopped parsley (I used about half a bunch)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the cassoulet
Fry up the pancetta in a large Dutch oven. Once mostly cooked, add in the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs and spices, and cook stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened and lightly golden.
Add the beans, and broth, and bring to a boil. Cook partially covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sausage after about 30 minutes, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until beans are fully cooked through.
For the topping
Meanwhile, while the cassoulet cooks, make the garlicky bread crumbs. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, until the crumbs are coated. Spread on a sheet pan and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the mixture is crisp and golden. Cool the crumbs in the pan, and then return the bread crumb mixture to the medium bowl and stir in the parsley.
Mash some of the beans in the pot with a potato masher to thicken the broth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Just before serving, sprinkle the cassoulet with the bread crumbs, and enjoy!