Cassoulet is a traditional dish from the Occitane region of France. Like its cousins feijoada and good ol' fashioned baked beans, the basic plot is "cook meat with beans for a long time".
I remember first hearing about cassoulet from my AP French teacher, Madame Fleming. She was slighty batty and taught us french words like "bagatelle," which I would later use in college and cause many people who were more hip to french vocab trends to laugh at me. Anyhow, Mme Fleming said cassoulet was both delicious and complicated and that she would make it for us. But she never did. Liar.
Anyway, not being Occitanidental ourselves, the first step was finding a recipe. Of course, cassoulet is one of those things that no two people agree on: goose or duck? Lamb or rabbit? Tomatoes or no tomatoes? Pork? Yes, they all agreed on pork, but what cuts? In the end I decided to pick the recipe that "felt" the most right, and the one that seemed to feature the most easily procurable ingredients (staying clear of things titled "30-minute crock pot cassoulet LOL").
This recipe from Saveur magazine fit the bill and seemed to be backed up by a suitably authentic story. It stars pork and duck, the King and Queen of Accessibly Flavorful Meats. Thanks to the friendly butcher at Martin's in the Reading Terminal, I was able to get a hold of some freshly cut ham hocks and delicious garlic sausage, and Guinta's helped me out with the duck legs. I confit-ed the legs in our Crock Pot, but I had to use mostly olive oil to cover as I was unable to get a hold of duck fat. But hey, I'm sure it's healthier this way anyway.
With confit-ing out of the way, the recipe was a snap. There are quite a few steps, but each one only requires a few minutes of your attention. I would recommend doing this over a weekend, or when you're snowed in, because there's a lot of waiting around.
The end result was pretty tasty. The seven plus hours of cooking makes everything kind of melt away into a sumptuous mush, studded with the pieces of duck and pork that have fallen off the bone.
Regretfully, our cassoulet never seemed to develop the crust on top that is hailed as one of its "glories". A few theories here: one, it was not baked in a conical "cassole" but rather a large Le Crueset dutch oven, so less surface area exposed to crust over. Two, too much liquid. Three, the recipe's suspicious lack of direction in terms of soaking the beans overnight prior to cooking. When the beans went into the cassoulet, even after some time cooking in the water/pork rind mixture, they were not quite tender, so I think the rate at which their starch was released was a little off or something.
Anyway, I'm not complaining. For a once-a-winter fatty-meat blowout, it's hard to beat.
I'm submitting this dish to the Well Seasoned Cook's My Legume Love Affair, Seventh Helping, since this dish is mostly beans. It's being hosted by Cooking 4 All Seasons.