Sir Walter’s Cassoulet

Cassoulet, Recipe by Sir Walter Jean-Baptiste de Rochefort

“The preparation of a cassoulet is, as with the preparing of any great meal, foremost an act of love.” -Sir Walter de Rochefort

If we consider the Cassoulet as consisting of five layers which melt together under a golden crust, we can see at once that the one who cooks a Cassoulet cooks five dishes which can be served with convenience as a single course meal. But do not forget that while you may serve the final dish in one container, you must first prepare the five parts.

They are as follows:

Firstly, The Beans, cooked with bacon, later separated from the bacon.

Secondly, The Pork, roasted to your taste.

Thirdly, The Lamb, cooked with duck fat and onions.

Fourthly, The Bacon, as above, having cooked with the beans and then been separated from them.

Fifthly, The Cakes of Sausage, having been formed from loose and uncooked sausage which has no casing (or you may remove a casing if your butcher does not offer loose sausage.)

(The final layer, dried bread crumbs with parsley, drizzled with duck fat, I do not count as one of the five dishes, as bread crumbs with parsley can be purchased from any reputable grocer. You may prepare your own from scratch if you prefer.)

Step I. For the beans, gather together:

2 T lemon juice or liquid whey

2 ½ cups dry white beans of any variety

4 oz. salt pork

8 oz lean bacon

½ cup onions

a bouquet of herbs tied in cheesecloth or tied to one another if you lack cheesecloth (such as: 2 cloves of garlic, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf).

Preparation of beans:

Firstly, one day ahead:

Soak dry beans all day in 1 quart of water with 2T lemon juice or liquid whey. In the evening, drain and rinse beans and place beans in crock pot with a 2 fresh quarts of water and simmer overnight.

Secondly, upon the day of eating cassoulet:

Drain beans, reserving their liquid for use later. Place beans into a sauce pan, adding enough of the bean liquid to cover everything. If you lack sufficient liquid, water may be added to make up the difference. Cook until beans are tender. (One hour should suffice.)

Meanwhile, slice salt pork into ½ inch cubes.

Once the beans are tender, add the bacon and salt pork and cook another twenty or thirty minutes, allowing the flavors to combine.

Then, drain, reserving liquid once more. Separate the beans and salt pork from the bacon and set aside in 2 vessels, one for beans and one for bacon and pork. Dice the bacon, reserving for layering. You may give it a quick fry if you prefer a crispier texture.

Step II. For Pork, gather together:

1 pound pork tenderloin, or any boneless cut you prefer.

Salt and pepper

Preparation of The Pork:

Roast the pork for 1-2 hours, after sprinkling with salt and pepper, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165*F. Allow to cool, reserving juices. When cool, cut into ½” to 1” cubes of meat. Set aside.

Step III. For Lamb, gather together:

1 pound lamb of any cut, without bones

2 T duck fat

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1-15 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, or 5-6 very fresh tomatoes from your garden, peeled. If desired, you may remove the seeds, but it is a messy business and I avoid it, myself.

1 sprig thyme

1 ½ c dry white wine or vermouth

2 cups beef stock (preferably from bone broth)

Preparation of The Lamb:

Cut lamb into one inch square chunks. Heat the oil in a skillet until almost smoking and add lamb, browning on all sides. If your skillet is not large, you should do this in stages, browning ¼ or ½ of the meat at a time. When all meat has browned, remove the meat from skillet. Add onion and cook in fat, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Add meat back to onions, along with smashed garlic, tomatoes, sprig thyme, wine, and stock. Cook together for 1 ½ hours, simmering slowly. Remove meat and set juices aside for later use.

Step IV. Preparation of The Bacon:

You have accomplished this already, in the preparation of The Beans.

Step V. Preparation of The Sausage:

From 1 pound of a mild sausage of your choice, form small patties of sausage measuring 2 inches across and ½ of an inch tall. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through, flipping over to ensure even cooking. Drain excess fat and discard fat.

Step VI. To Assemble the Cassoulet:

Into an 8-quart oven-proof casserole, layer the ingredients as follows:

1/3 of the beans

½ of the lamb

½ of the pork

½ of the bacon and salt pork

½ of the sausage cakes

1/3 of the beans

½ of the lamb

½ of the pork

½ of the bacon and salt pork

½ of the sausage cakes

1/3 of the beans

Now, over all these layers, pour the juice from the cooked lamb (the juice with tomatoes) and the juice from the roasted pork. These should nearly bring the level of liquid to cover the top layer of beans. If you have yet to cover the top layer of beans, add as much of the reserved bean liquid as required to do so.

Spread over all 1 ½ to 2 cups dry bread crumbs with parsley.

Heat 3 T duck fat to the melting point and drizzle over the top of the bread crumbs.

Place in oven at 350*F and cook for at least one hour, or for up to three hours at 300*F. It will become gradually drier during the longer cooking time.

If you will be at home while the Cassoulet cooks, you may form an exceptionally tasty crust by repeating the following: every 15 minutes or so, break the crust open in several places using the back of a spoon. Then, using the spoon in the regular fashion, gather liquid from below the crust and drizzle all over the top. C’est manifique!