Classic Cassoulet: Stick-to-Your-Ribs Good

This classic French comfort food seems to be the hot new thing this year. Not only have we seen recipes in several national food magazines, but many of you mentioned it on your list of winter projects - the Kitchn's own editor Dana included! Cassoulet is a lot of work, but the pay off is well worth it.

Cassoulet is perhaps the signature dish from the Languedoc region in southern France. Despite it's reputation, cassoulet isn't really difficult to make, but it does require quite a time commitment. It's a multi-step, multi-day process where each individual element gets cooked separately and then layered into a final casserole.

So set aside a weekend, source out your ingredients, and reward yourself with supremely rich, hearty, and most of all, comforting French dish!

The Confit - This can be either duck or goose confit, but confit you must make! It adds richness and a silky mouthfeel to the final dish, and cassoulet just wouldn't be the same without it.

The Pork - This is usually shoulder or some other lean cut. It gets braised slowly until absolutely succulent and fork-tender, and then it's cut into bite sized pieces before going into the cassoulet.

The Sausage - As if the confit and the pork weren't enough, you get to add some sausage too! Brownie points if you make your own, but given everything else you've got going on, there's no shame in buying it from the butcher!

The Beans - Classically, cassoulet is made with white beans cooked separately with herbs and sometimes a ham hock or bacon. Go for a creamy variety like great northern or cannelini.

Tomato Sauce - Sometimes this is made along with the pork braise, but it can also be made separately. This will be the main cooking liquid for the casserole - as well as the only veggies you're going to get!

The Cassoulet - By the time you get to this step, the cassoulet is easy! You just spoon a layer of the beans and tomatoes into the bottom of a casserole dish or dutch oven, add a layer of meat, and top with the rest of the beans and tomatoes. A breadcrumb topping gives the final dish some crunch. Bake until bubbly and enjoy. And about time!

Still with us?! Ready to attempt your own?! Here are a few recipes to help you through:

Cassoulet of White Beans, Braised Pork, Sausage, and Duck Confit from Fine Cooking - pick up a copy of their Feb/March 2010 issue for full details and pictures.
Toulouse-Style Cassoulet from Food & Wine
Thomas Keller's Slow Cooker Cassoulet from Williams Sonoma
Quick Cassoulet from Jamie Oliver

Have you ever made cassoulet? Any pointers?

Related: Gooey and Bubbly: 5 Lasagnas to Warm You Up!

(Image: Jamie Oliver)

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