As of last year, I decided that cassoulet would be my New Year’s Day tradition, beans being good luck and all. Cassoulet 2008 was thrown together with leftover pork roast and andouille sausage – it was very tasty, but I wanted to experiment a bit. I found a good-looking formula for cassoulet on Kate Hill’s blog, and followed the instructions loosely.
I was going to use duck confit this year, I swear, but the co-op sold out of the stuff, then closed early on New Year’s Eve. We made do with sausage and a small slice of uncured ham. I didn’t have any ham hocks or bacon to flavor the broth, either, so I used some of our good roasted turkey stock from Thanksgiving. The final result wasn’t particularly meaty (or fatty), but the beans had a wonderful deep flavor – they soaked up every bit of broth I gave them. I didn’t use any breadcrumbs for the top, but the crust turned out fabulous.
We ate the cassoulet with a tossed Caesar salad and a bottle of Tikal Malbec. Lovely.
Note to self: I cooked up more beans than our casserole could hold, so I had to freeze some for later. Ease up on the beans next time. Also, investing in some really good quality white beans would be nice – the co-op’s Great Northerns tasted good, but they looked old and tired when I bought them.
1 1/2 pounds Great Northern beans, rinsed and sorted
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
2 thyme branches
1 quart turkey broth
1 quart water (approximately)
salt and pepper
1 slice ham, diced
1/2 kielbasa sausage, diced
1/2 linguica sausage, diced
1 pint chicken broth, heated
Put the beans in a Dutch oven, cover them with water, bring it to a boil, then let it sit for an hour. Drain. Realize you have way too many beans and your pot is too small.
In a very large Dutch oven, combine the beans, garlic, onion, cloves, herbs, broth and water and bring to a boil. Adjust to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans are just tender, another hour or two. Remove the onion, cloves and herbs.
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a roasting pan or casserole, spread a little olive oil, then ladle in beans to cover the bottom. Sprinkle the diced ham and sausages over this in an even layer. Top with beans. Pour over any broth remaining in the pot, then top up with the chicken broth you had to get out at the last minute – you want the broth to just cover the beans, if possible. The pan will be very full.
Put the pan in the oven and let it bake for half an hour. Turn the oven heat down to 350° and bake another hour, occasionally patting the beans down into their cooking liquid with a wooden spoon. When the beans have formed a beautiful golden crust, take the cassoulet out and let it rest a few minutes while you fix the salad.
Unless you have several dinner guests, prepare to eat cassoulet for every meal for a few days afterwards. There are worse fates.