Cassou-let Me Tell You
Scene: Circa ten years ago, restaurant row, in the West Loop of Downtown Chicago at a fancy french food and cocktail bar.
That's where I had my first and still unforgettable cassoulet experience. I also had my first raw oyster experience that night and although equally as memorable, not post worthy [yes, I know all the rage of oysters right now and I prefer it in supplement form (Affiliate code: SATIATEDBLONDE)]! I can't believe it's taken me a decade to share how we've been making makeshift cassoulet at home!
When making this at home you've got a few options depending on time, cooking methods, and energy available. One quicker, unofficial way we do it is to use a mix of leftovers to make the dish... it's great with a mix of chicken, bacon, and sausage. However, I tend to eat all our normal leftovers for my lunches, so more often than not, we're making everything fresh that goes in. However, pre-made homemade stock is really key in kicking it up a notch! If I have leftover broth from making soup, I will freeze it into ice cubes to use whenever a recipe calls for it.
Here's how I do it:
Cook a chicken/duck to fall apart tender: I take out the giblets in the duck to reserve for homemade gravy. I've cooked it in a dutch oven on the stove or in the oven. The stove top method [I season with salt, pepper, garlic, cloves, powdered bay leaf, & thyme (find my favorite spices here) & if I have it, fresh rosemary) takes about 3 hours. Add 1 cup water to the pot and cover. I check on it and reduce to a simmer once I hear it boiling. For the oven method (more traditional), I cook at 350 F for 2-3 hours (with the lid off) and just add enough water to make sure the bird doesn't dry out or burn. You could use a rotisserie chicken here, I would just add it near the end of the rest of the steps - but I am always sure to check the ingredients to make sure that it wasn't cooked in vegetable oil/canola oil, has msg, or soy).
Reserve the fat: I strain the fat out of the dutch oven and reserve it for future cooking. Tonight we're making duck fat fries!
Break down the duck: I let it rest for a few because it's super hot and then my hubby does a great job at this step. I take extra caution not to burn myself throughout this process (but especially in this and the previous step).
Add veggies: It's possible to add a variety of things here, but my favorites are just carrots and onions. I clean them , chop 'em up, and put them in the nicely fat-coated dutch oven after I have reserved the rest of the fat.
Add stock: Here I add whatever homemade broth I have on hand (beef, chicken, or duck), but I also keep some on hand for when I run out! I fill it up the dutch oven/pot (Affiliate code: SATIATEDBLONDE) approximately 1/3 the way with the broth.
Simmer: I simmer those together and slowly (and carefully) add the duck back in.
Add bacon: It's best to have this pre-cooked, but when my hubby is carving the duck, I will pop the bacon in the oven for 20 minutes. I typically prefer it when bacon is cooked more to the crispy level, but although it won't necessarily get crispy in the cassoulet, it makes it a more pleasurable experience. I reserve the bacon fat for cooking, too (aka lard). I carefully chop up the bacon after it's cooled and throw it in the pot. For a meatier alternative, you could also cook a slab of pork belly to amp things up a bit.
Add sausage: I add sliced sausage in at this step, too. Whether I have it leftover or raw, I find it ends up perfectly either way.
Let it cook together: I let it go all together for approximately one and a half hours. If doing the stove top method, it really is better when I end it in the oven on broil for a few minutes. If you've been cooking in the oven the whole time, it develops a nice crispy top on its own--the sign of a more authentic cassoulet.
Gravy: I like to pour homemade gravy on top of my cassoulet after I top it with croutons. See my gravy post for more details -- the only difference here is that I boil the giblets for 5-10 minutes, and then chop them up finely and stir it into the gravy once it is formed.
Croutons: I like using the leftover bacon pan to cook the croutons in. I cut up about four pieces of home-baked bread into cubes, mix them around on the pan, and sprinkle with salt and a savory herb mix. I bake it for 25 minutes at 350 F (until they start getting brown and crispy).
Enjoy: I like to take off the lid and let it all cool while I am wrapping up steps 10 and 11. Then, I scoop my cassoulet in the bowl and finish with croutons & gravy!
That's it! It might seem like a lot, but it's such an easy process to work on here and there throughout the day - I just have to plan enough cooking time. It's definitely not a last minute dish! But, it's easy to see how much faster this would go with leftovers!
What are your favorite meats to use in cassoulet? Tell me in the comments below and as always, #GetSatiated!