Soaking time: 8-12 hours
Preparation and cooking time: more than 3 hours
This dish, known worldwide, originated centuries ago in the town of Castelnaudary, known for its duck and goose production.
Cassoulet quickly became the specialty of France's southwest; it was served by every family on Sunday, and was a celebratory meal, served in a "cassolo," a deep earthenware dish that over time was transformed to give its name to the cassoulet.
The secret lies in the choice of beans. They should be white beans: "lingot" or "coco" varieties. Generally local beans from Castelnaudary, Tarbes, Mazères or Lavenet are used in France.
Everyone agrees that the more salt or confit goose there is, the better the cassoulet. The dish is also flavored, depending on the version, with aromatic vegetables (carrots, leeks, etc.), but the primary accent in this southwestern dish is garlic and pork rind, the secret of a good rich broth.
There are almost as many cassoulet recipes as there are cooks: we're giving the Toulouse version, but there are numerous variations.
The Castelnaudary version is cassoulet in its simplest expression. Aside from the goose confit, this cassoulet is just pork, containing either shoulder or hocks, sausage and pork rind.
The Carcassone version includes partridge and a piece of mutton; salt pork is added, but no confit.
- Soak the beans; drain.
- Place them in a pot and cover with fresh water, preferably not hard water; add a clove of garlic, the bouquet garni and an onion.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Discard the water, refill with fresh water and simmer gently.
- Prick the sausages, cook them in goose fat on one side only.
- Remove and set aside. In the same fat, sauté the salt pork cut into large lardons.
- Remove and drain. Add the two onions, carrots, mutton, pork or goose (not the confit) and cover with boiling water in which the tomato paste has been dissolved.
- Add the two other cloves of garlic and a little chopped salt pork and cook over low heat for 45 minutes.
- Strain the broth; remove the vegetables; set aside the pork rind and meats.
- Line the bottom of a large Dutch oven or cocotte with the pork rind; place all the ingredients into the pot in the following order: beans, meat, beans; place the sausages on top, half-burying them in the beans; pour the broth over top.
- Add a few grindings of pepper; place in a 150-160° C (300-325° F) oven for at least 3 hours.
- Meanwhile, remove the fat from the goose confit in a sauté pan over low heat.
- The cassoulet should form a light crust on top toward the end of the cooking time. Press it down into the cassoulet several times without crushing the beans.
- During the final hour of cooking, check the cassoulet, adding more broth if necessary without drowning the beans.
- Serve at the table right in the cooking dish.
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