A Cassoulet with US Ingredients

A cou­ple of days ago, one of my read­ers chal­lenged me to make a Cas­soulet using ingre­di­ents found in the US. The Cas­soulet is a spe­cial­i­ty from the South­west region of France. It is a dish com­posed of main­ly white beans and var­i­ous pieces of meat, main­ly porc, cooked on low heat over an extend­ed peri­od of time. Find­ing the var­i­ous ingre­di­ents to make a Cas­soulet in the US is very chal­leng­ing. Most peo­ple will order from a spe­cial­i­ty web­site that imports ingre­di­ents from France. The chal­lenge that I took was the fol­low­ing: make a Cas­soulet with ingre­di­ents found in gro­cery stores in my area, with­out hav­ing to order any­thing online. I took the chal­lenge, and, though my Cas­soulet is not per­fect, I am quite hap­py with the result:

cassoulet

 

To make my Cas­soulet, I fol­lowed 2 dif­fer­ent recipes that I com­bined in order to make the best pos­si­ble Cas­soulet. One recipe I used is a French online recipe, the oth­er recipe is a recipe from one of my father’s friends, who con­sid­ered him­self an expert in Cas­soulet. Please note, you will need a dutch oven (cocotte) to make the Cas­soulet.

Finding the ingredients

Meat

To find the ingre­di­ents, I went to a so-called “inter­na­tion­al” gro­cery store. They do not have any French prod­ucts, but they have East­ern Euro­pean prod­ucts as they cater to a fair­ly big East­ern Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ty in the area (if you are in the Chica­go area, the store is called Fresh Farms). In that gro­cery store, I found pork skin (yes, the Cas­soulet is a dish that requires pork skin!) and goose fat, both an impor­tant part of the Cas­soulet.

Sausage

Anoth­er impor­tant ingre­di­ent is sausage, which is tra­di­tion­al­ly the Toulouse Sausage, which I could not find any­where. The Toulouse Sausage can be bought online on Ama­zon, but since my chal­lenge was to stay clear of order­ing online, I had to find a sub­sti­tute. After doing some research, I learned that the Pol­ish Kiel­basa Sausage is an accept­able sub­sti­tute to the Toulouse sausage for the Cas­soulet. That sausage was easy to find in my area.

Pork

The Cas­soulet also requires an addi­tion­al meat, which based on my 2 recipes could be either pork ribs, mut­ton shoul­der or pork shoul­der. Pork ribs are easy to find in the US. I nev­er­the­less opt­ed for pork shoul­der called “pork butt” instead, as I did not want to deal with the bones of the pork ribs.

Duck

Some Cas­soulet recipes also add duck con­fit. Accord­ing to my father’s friend (the one who con­sid­ers him­self an expert in Cas­soulet), duck con­fit is not a require­ment for a Cas­soulet, espe­cial­ly if mak­ing a Cas­soulet from Castel­naudary, the town where Cas­soulet was born, as duck con­fit is more of a spe­cial­i­ty of areas north of that town (still in the south­west of France though, just north of Castel­naudary). There are about 10 dif­fer­ent ways to make Cas­soulet, if you can believe that! Any­way, I was quite hap­py not to include duck con­fit as I could not find it in any store in my area any­way.

Vegetables

The main veg­etable and the high­light of the Cas­soulet is white beans. Thank­ful­ly, white beans are very easy to find in the US. My father’s friend rec­om­mends white beans from Chile. I bought large lima white beans. The oth­er veg­etable is onions, also easy to find.

Some Cas­soulet recipes also include car­rots, and some even include toma­toes. The recipe of my father’s friend does not include these, but the online recipe includes a car­rot. I chose to use a car­rot to add a lit­tle col­or to the dish.

Herbs/Seasoning

The usu­al herbs are what we call in France “bou­quet gar­ni”, which con­tain mul­ti­ple herbs includ­ing bay leaf, rose­mary and thyme, as well as gar­lic. You can eas­i­ly buy these sep­a­rate­ly in the US.

A few notes about my recipe choices

As I said ear­li­er, I com­bined an online recipe with the recipe of my father’s friend. The advice I used from my father’s friend was to first cook the pork skin for 45 min­utes in boil­ing water, and then use the cooked pork skin to cook the white beans. In oth­er words, put the cook pork skin in the pot in which you cook the white beans. This will pre­vent the beans from stick­ing to the pot, which is very impor­tant because the beans are such an impor­tant part of the dish, they need to be cooked right. I also fol­lowed the advice of the online recipe to soak the white beans in water for 6 hours, pri­or to mak­ing the Cas­soulet.

I browned the sausages in a skil­let with goose fat, as advised by my father’s friend. Addi­tion­al­ly, the online recipe advo­cat­ed for adding the sausages at a lat­er point in the bak­ing. I fol­lowed the recipe of my father’s friend in that I put the sausages in the dutch oven (cocotte) togeth­er with all the oth­er ingre­di­ents at the begin­ning of the bak­ing. My rea­son­ing is that the longer it bakes, the bet­ter. Fol­low­ing that same rea­son­ing, I baked the dish for 2 hours.

So here is my recipe:

cassoulet
A Cas­soulet with US Ingre­di­ents
Print Recipe
Serv­ings Prep Time
4 peo­ple 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Serv­ings Prep Time
4 peo­ple 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
cassoulet
A Cas­soulet with US Ingre­di­ents
Print Recipe
Serv­ings Prep Time
4 peo­ple 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Serv­ings Prep Time
4 peo­ple 1 hour
Cook Time
4 hours
Ingre­di­ents
Serv­ings: peo­ple
Instruc­tions
  1. Soak the white beans in water for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Cook the pork skin in boil­ing water for 45 min­utes.
  3. Put the white beans in a pot togeth­er with the cooked pork skin. Add plen­ty of water, the sliced and peeled car­rot, 1 peeled onion, the rose­mary, thyme and bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour on medi­um heat.
    cooking beans for cassoulet
  4. In the mean­time, brown the pork butt with olive oil in a skil­let. In a sep­a­rate skil­let, brown the sausage with some goose fat. Pre­heat the oven to 275 degrees Fahren­heit.
  5. In a dutch oven (cocotte), brown the minced gar­lic and 1 minced onion with 1 table­spoon of goose fat. Then, once the beans are cooked, add the beans, pork skin, car­rot, onion and herbs, togeth­er with about half of the water it was cooked in (save the oth­er half for lat­er). Add the browned pork butt and the sausages. Sprin­kle bread­crumbs all over. Now you should have all the ingre­di­ents in the dutch oven.
    cassoulet prior to baking
  6. Put the uncov­ered dutch oven (cocotte) in the oven, and bake for 2 hours at 275 degrees Fahren­heit. Every 30 min­utes, check to see if a crust has formed on top. If so, you should put the crust back in the dutch oven, mix­ing it with the oth­er ingre­di­ents. Addi­tion­al­ly, about halfway through bak­ing, add the oth­er half of the water the beans were cooked in. You want the cas­soulet to stay wet. If it becomes dry, add water to wet it.
  7. Enjoy!
    cassoulet
Recipe Notes

Note: you can sea­son with salt and pep­per. (I chose not to do so, as I find pork quite salty already).

Share this Recipe

Hope you too can make a Cas­soulet using ingre­di­ents you find in your area! Oth­er­wise, you can always order ingre­di­ents online.

Bon Appétit!

French Mom

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Cas­soulet using US ingre­di­ents
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3 thoughts on “A Cassoulet with US Ingredients

  1. I don’t under­stand the pork skin — a large sheet or two is in the final dish? Or was it cut into pieces at some point! Does it actu­al­ly become edi­ble through boil­ing?

    1. You can put as many as you want or as lit­tle as you want or not put it in at all. You can also cook the dish with it, but then remove it if you do not want to eat it. Hope this helps!

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