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pork and white bean cassoulet

January 22, 2010

It may take you as long to read through this post as it will be to cook this dish.  This is a quintessential Sunday dish and another “win” from the CI 2009 Cookbook.  Apparently made in its most traditional fashion, this dish should take 3 days to prepare, but with some planning ahead, it should ONLY take about an afternoon of work.

In the same way that CI mentions its own notes and adjustments, I’ll mention my own here.  The recipe listed below is the exact recipe as written in CI. Of course, I always manage to forget something or other at the store and living in a country where nothing is open on Sunday limits one’s ability to just run out to the store for a last minute item.  The most commonly uttered phrase in my kitchen on a Sunday (or any other night for that matter) is:  “Eh, that’s close enough.”   Having not tasted the original recipe, I can’t say whether or not the adjustments made the dish  better, but I can say that it was mighty good and fed us for a good few days after cooking.

KC adjustments:

  • I thought that I would have plenty of sausage having purchased 4 sausage links at the store, but it turned out I was grossly mistaken.  The recipe calls for 1.5 lbs, which is more like 8 links.  Thankfully I bought too MUCH pork shoulder, so I ended up with .75 lbs sausage and a little over 2 lbs pork shoulder.  I personally preferred the pork shoulder, which turned out incredibly tender after slow cooking that I was perfectly content with this and would likely do it again.
  • Butter  beans.  This recipe almost always calls for dried cannellini beans.  I had a bag of big butter beans that had been begging to be cooked for some time, so I used those.  Loved them and thought they were great.
  • Instead of one piece of salt pork, I used a package of diced pancetta that I had in the fridge and thought it worked well.
  • I also adjusted the directions based on my experience of cooking this.  Personally, having struggled a little based on the order of the instructions, I revised to walk you through what seemed to be a better way of organizing this recipe.
  • Instead of chopping tomatoes, I use a can of whole tomatoes and use kitchen shears to “chop” them before adding to the pot.  Apparently, the tomatoes used in canned tomatoes generally tend to be higher quality and yield better results.  At least that’s what Martha says and she knows everything, right?

Pork and White Bean Cassoulet
from Cook’s Illustrated 2009 cookbooks

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over (I used butter beans and they were lovely)
  • 2 medium celery ribs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh French garlic sausage
  • 4 ounces salt pork (or pancetta)
  • 4 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large slices high-quality white bread torn into rough pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Brine your beans–2 options.  Apparently brining will render a more tender

  1. Dissolve 2 tbsps salt in 3 quarts cold water in a larger bowl.  Add beans to soak between 8-24 hours.  Drain and rinse.
  2. If you don’t have time for an overnight brine, you can opt for a “quick brine”.  Put water, salt and beans in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan.  Place over high heat and bring water to a boil.  Remove from heat, cover and allow to stand for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse.

Prep work

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300°F and adjust wire rack to the lower-middle position.
  2. Using kitchen twine, tie together celery, bay leaf, and thyme.
  3. Chop onions, carrots and garlic.  As always, when chopping your garlic make sure to remove any green sprout.  
  4. Chop parsley.
  5. Tear up bread.
  6. Combine 2 tbsps oil, bread and parsley into a food processor to create the bread crumb topping to add at the end of cooking.  You want larger crumbs so don’t exceed 8-10 quick pulses for best results.

The “real” cooking

  1. Place sausage and salt pork in a pot and cover with cold water (should cover by 1 inch).
  2. Bring water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Once water is boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove sausages from water and trasfer to a cutting board.
  5. Remove salt pork from water and set aside (optional as to whether or not you want to use it)
  6. Cut sausages into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Heat 2 tbsps vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  8. At the point of the oil beginning to smoke, add pieces of sausage and brown on all sides. (8-12 minutes)
  9. Remove sausages and set aside.
  10. Add pork shoulder to the pan and brown on all sides. (8-12 minutes)
  11. Once browned, add onions and carrots.
  12. Stirring constantly, cook until onions are translucent (about 2 minutes)
  13. Add garlic and tomato paste.
  14. Return sausage to the pot.
  15. Continue to stir allowing the garlic and tomato paste to cook (30 seconds).
  16. Add white wine.  Using a wooden spoon, try to make sure to get up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook until slightly reduced (another 30 seconds).
  17. Add canned tomatoes and stir.
  18. Add celery bundle and salt pork (diced).
  19. Stir in broth, and beans, pressing beans into an even layer.
  20. If any beans are completely exposed add water (up to 1 cup) in order to ensure that they are completely submerged (it’s okay if they “peek” out, you just don’t want them completely exposed.
  21. Turn heat to high.  Bring to a boil.
  22. Cover pot and transfer  to over.  Cook for  1 1/2 hours.
  23. Remove celery bundle and skim off any fat from the surface.  Season with salt and pepper.
  24. Increase oven temperature to 350°F and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  25. Remove pot from oven and cover the cassoulet with half of the bread crumb mixture.
  26. Cover again and return to over.  Bake for 15 minutes.
  27. Add the remaining bread crumbs and return to the over for another 30 minutes (or until the topping is a golden brown.
  28. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 2:58 pm

    Looks beautiful! I’ll have to try it! What’s the CI cookbook?

    • January 22, 2010 3:19 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer.

      CI is Cook’s Illustrated. Don’t know why I thought I should just abbreviate it, sorry for the confusion there!

  2. January 28, 2010 8:24 pm

    Lovely cassoulet. I have been wanting to make one for the longest time, and I think you just convinced me. Thanks for the extra tips and photos.

  3. BigCoop permalink
    July 14, 2010 7:44 pm

    I just happened upon your site and ow I’m starving. As food enthusiast, brother of a chef and avid photographer you’ve got me hooked! I’m going to attempt the cassoulet tonight, pita tomorrow and cinnamon rolls Saturday. Happiness!

    Love the fire stories from your past as well.

    • July 14, 2010 10:05 pm

      That’s an ambitious line-up and unusual for summer time, but I hope you enjoy them all. I’m glad you liked the fire stories. Sadly, those days aren’t exactly behind me, but at least they’re fewer and further between.

  4. michael ccawford permalink
    October 9, 2011 6:02 pm

    Ingredients list= 1.5 lbs. pork shoulder, one inch pieces.
    Instruction #10= Brown in pan.
    *Your first KC recipe adjustment mentions that pork shoulder was INCREDIBLY TENDER AFTER SLOW COOKING.

    Question?????? Did you leave out of instructions, to slow cook pork????

    • November 28, 2011 7:23 pm

      Hi Michael and sorry for the late response on this. I’ve been out of commission for awhile.

      Regarding the pork: The tenth step to brown the pork is simply to get some color and add a different dimenion before slow cooking (similar to crock-pot cooking). As the recipe goes one, you’ll notice that you add quite a bit to the pot after browning until you eventually get to number 22 which is cook for 1.5 hours. Everything from the sausage to the pork to the beans cooks for this long until the end result is a delightful textured cassoulet. Hope this helps clear up any confusion.

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