I was only recently introduced to the idea of eating beans on New Year’s Day for good luck and prosperity. I’ve always figured I’ve gotten my good luck from our noodles the night before – but on the other hand, you can’t have too much good luck. So this year I decided to try my hand at a cassoulet.
I know that there’s a lot of argument over what makes the “true” cassoulet. I read the recipes in Mastering The Art of French Cooking and The Cooking of Southwest France, and I read David Lebovitz’s post on Camp Cassoulet in Gascony. Doing it the “official” way, with confit and pork fat and God knows what, certainly sounds exciting. But you know, the only people I was trying to impress were J and myself, and I just wanted it to taste good. So I did it all in one day, skipped the confit, and came up with something I was really pleased with. My one concession to working ahead was to have a pork roast for dinner a few days previous, so we could use the leftover meat.
I didn’t measure anything at all in this recipe, so the fact that it made exactly the right amount to fill our pottery roasting pan was a sheer fluke. Don’t expect me to ever reproduce it exactly.
New Year’s Cassoulet 2008
pork roast (cooked with garlic, fresh sage, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper)
whole garlic cloves
My method: a couple days before New Year’s I covered a pork blade roast with garlic and herbs and roasted it at low heat. We had a few slices for dinner and cubed the leftovers.
The morning of New Year’s Day I put a pan of white beans on to simmer in water and chicken broth with a couple cloves of garlic and a bay leaf. In the afternoon I fried up some chopped bacon and carrots, and added them to the beans. Then I took some Hempler’s smoked andouille sausage, seared it in a pan to heat it up and give it extra charred flavor, cut it into chunks and layered it with the beans and pork in a roasting pan. I topped it with a thin layer of bread crumbs and put it in a 300° oven. Once the stew started to bubble up through the topping, I gave it a few nudges with the back of a spoon to shove the breadcrumbs down into the broth. By the time we were ready to eat (about an hour and a half later), the top was golden and crispy. I’m sure I could have let it cook much longer, for a more exciting crust.
The end result was lovely: hot, rich but not too much, just the right amount of salty and spicy, and with so much flavor in the beans that I almost wished all those meat chunks weren’t in there. We ate it with a spinach salad and a bottle of Marqués de Cáceras Rioja Reserva, a dark, fruity wine with a distinct woodsmoke note that worked beautifully with the sausage and bacon flavors.
Happy New Year!
3 thoughts on “cassoulet for New Year's Day”
Shouldn’t you have had a nice Bordeaux to go with the cassoulet? 😉
I’ve wanted to make cassoulet but my wife doesn’t like beans so I’m hesitant to invest that amount of time in something just for me.
I figure, Gascony is close to Spain. Anyway, what are the wine police gonna do, raid my cellar? 🙂
Cassoulet is a bit much as a single-person dinner. Maybe she could just pick all the sausage out of it? Or do like my father did last year – invite twenty people over to eat it for you.
Wow! I tried a modified version I could eat and it was amazing. You were right about the glorious, rich flavor of the beans. I had taken heed of your comment and cut back the meat to just some home-made, lean sausage. Delicious.