Sausage and beans are one of those famous classic combinations that will always be heard together, even though I’m sure they primary place they appear together are in those weird tins. The French cassoulet, however, is the king of sausage and beans, well meat and beans anyway… What once started as a lowly peasant dish is now a meat feast for everyone, so get involved!
Seriously though, how many dishes include four different types of meat, and I’m not talking about varieties of mince in a meatball. French cassoulet goes for sausage, confit duck (sometimes mutton or partridge) and then some additional meat which tends to change depending on where you’re looking. Personally, I love bacon (who doesn’t) and pork shoulder for my extras, but you can go for whatever you fancy. Just be aware that in total you’re going to be cooking everything for 4+ hours, so look for something that takes a bit of cooking.
Confit is a cooking method where food is preserved by cooking for a long time at a low temperature (usually around 90oC) submerged in fat of some kind. Duck confit, like that used in French cassoulet, is exactly that; duck, salted and then slow cooked in its own fat before being canned. This isn’t that hard to find and is 100% worth it, the flavour is incredible. If you fancy confiting something yourself, check out our confit garlic guide from earlier this year.
Now, I’m sure that many people will get extremely sniffy about my use of the word Toulouse in the title of this recipe post, as in the most traditional cassoulets from Toulouse use mutton as one of the extra meats, and I haven’t. I have, however, got hold of Toulouse sausages to include, which are incredible by the way, so that’s good enough for me.
Just as important as the meat in your French cassoulet will be the beans, but what beans to use? Personally, I think this is more down to what you can get where you are than anything else. Traditionally you would go for something like tarbais, but they can be quite hard to get hold of, depending on where you are. I think that cannellini and butter beans make a good mixture of sizes, but it’s up to you. Just go for white beans, and forget anything like kidney or black beans, they’re no good for this.
So now you’ve got your delectable mixture of meat, beans and sauce, what do you do to finish it off? Make it crispy of course! Get hold of some fresh or dried breadcrumbs and liberally sprinkle over the top. For a more decadent finish you could fry them off in a little more duck fat first, but it isn’t necessary.
Notes on Cooking
With all the cooking that goes on with the cassoulet, you may find that it gets a bit thick in texture from time to time. Add a little more stock or some water to slacken it out if you think it needs it.
This Toulouse-style French cassoulet is a heavenly mixture of confit duck, Toulouse sausage, bacon, pork shoulder and beans in a rich sauce, covered with a crispy breadcrumb topping. This recipe is the last word in comfort food.
- 4 tbsp duck fat
- 400 g confit duck
- 400 g Toulouse sausage
- 400 g smoked bacon
- 400 g pork shoulder
- 2 onions finely diced
- 2 carrots finely diced
- 2 sticks celery finely diced
- 8 cloves garlic crushed
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 400 g tinned cannellini beans
- 400 g tinned butter beans
- 600 mL chicken stock
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 100 g breadcrumbs
Remove the duck confit from the fat, and pick from the bone. Set the meat aside. The skin and fat can be transferred to a small saucepan and cooked over low heat to render out all possible fat (about 1 to 2 hours). Filter through kitchen paper and keep refrigerated.
Chop the sausages, bacon and pork shoulder into chunks and brown thoroughly in some of the duck fat. Do this in batches, setting aside when done.
Add the remaining fat along with the onions, celery and carrots. Saute over a medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and cooker for a further 5 minutes.
Introduce the tomatoes, beans and stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
Return the browned sausage, bacon and pork shoulder along with the herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cover the pan and bring to a low simmer for 2 hours stirring every 30 minutes, until the beans a soft and creamy.
Preheat the over to 140oC.
Stir through the confit duck before transferring the cassoulet to a casserole dish and covering with the breadcrumbs.
Bake for 2 hours in the oven. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.