Did I use mutton? Pork rind? Pork hock?
Not even goose?
Breadcrumbs on top? Confit of duck?
No, not any of these.
Cassoulet? Not quite. Perhaps I can call my recipe Cassoulet inspired.
Melbourne is in lockdown and I cooked this just for the two of us, and with no guests to impress, I took an easy option. Many writers have written about Cassoulet and I enjoyed leafing through some of the numerous books on my bookshelves.
It takes a lockdown! I have not leafed through books for a very long time.
I found recipes for Cassoulet in books by: Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Joyce Goldstein, Stephanie Alexander, Guy Grossi and Jan McGuiness, Alice Waters, Clifford A Wright, Julia Child, Raymond Oliver, Elizabeth David and Rick Stein. If I had kept looking I may have found more.
The most comprehensive recipes are in this book:
The best photo for ingredients are in this book:
There is very little fat in my version of this dish; this is yet another reason why it cannot be called a Cassoulet. I used chicken legs and thinly cut pancetta because they needed using up. Instead of the pancetta, that I had in my fridge, I would have preferred to have used cubed pieces of speck, fatty prosciutto or raw bacon.
I used duck pieces, chicken legs , good-quality garlicky pork sausages, pork steaks from the neck, some pancetta and chicken stock.
1 onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, cannellini beans (soaked over night and cooked), 1/2 can of peeled tomatoes, thyme, bayleaves, parsley, bit of celery with leaves, pepper and salt.
I used a Dutch oven (thick bottom pan, suitable for slow cooking). This allowed me to brown the meat on the stove and to transfer the pan to the oven. .
The cannellini beans can be cooked beforehand and stored in the fridge: Soak over night (about 3 centimetres above the beans). Drain the beans , cover with fresh water, add some bay leaves and celery then simmer till nearly cooked/almost tender, but retain a slight bite, 30 – 40 minutes.
Brown the meat: Begin with the duck, and use the rendered fat from the duck to brown the other meat. Remove the duck, add the pancetta, seal it and set aside. Add some extra virgin olive oil or duck fat or lard if you need more fat and continue to brown the chicken, pork and sausages, turn occasionally until well-browned on both sides. Remove each piece of meat when it has browned and set it aside with the duck. It is best not to overcrowd the meat whilst browning.
Add onions, stir and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add beans with some of the broth from the beans, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaves and tomatoes. Cover with stock.
Arrange the meats on top of the beans with the skin facing upwards. Make sure that the meat is almost completely submerged. with the stock.
Transfer to oven (155C) and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top (about 2 hours). The crust is a combination of the fat and collagen from the meat and bones and the homemade chicken stock I used. The beans need to be covered with liquid and the meat mostly submerged. The liquid will evaporate so add more water or stock as it cooks – pour it carefully and gently down the side of the saucepan so as not to break the crust that forms on top as the ingredients cook.
Continue cooking undisturbed until the crust is deep brown and thick (at least 3 hours). Usually a real cassoulet is cooked for longer, but the meat was very tasty, soft and succulent.
Definitely not a Cassoulet, but I had fun dipping into some of my old books, cooking, eating and writing about it.