by Cat, April 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Cassoulet is a traditional French casserole typically made with white beans, preserved duck legs, and lamb/garlic sausage, but you can use chicken legs (fresh or smoked) instead of duck. If you can’t find the lamb/garlic sausage, use another type of mild (not hot) sausage, or pieces of lamb (depending on the cut of lamb, you may need to cook the pieces longer than the sausage).
I prefer to use navy beans or cannelini beans. You can also use canned beans, but this dish is much better if you soak or sprout dried beans and cook them yourself. Do not add salt until the beans are nearly done; otherwise the beans will be tough (this is why the sausage/tomato mixture is seasoned and then added to the beans near the end of the cooking time).
Depending on what your casserole dish can hold, you will need between ½ and 1 pound of dried beans. My casserole can only hold ½ pound, after the poultry and sausage are added. You might consider using two casseroles.
The original recipe calls for a wide and shallow casserole dish that can be used on the stove top as well as in the oven, such as a French Oven, for both browning the poultry and baking the casserole. If you do not have a casserole that can be used on the stove top, use a cast iron frying pan to brown the poultry. Put beans and stock into casserole and add browned poultry from the fry pan. Then reuse the fry pan to cook the sausage and tomatoes.
This recipe is inspired by my memory of the dish from an old Portland restaurant. The I adapted this version from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, and serves 4 – 6 people as a main dish.
Bacon & Elk Sausages version: I usually make this recipe using duck breasts or chicken legs, and lamb or pork sausage. But I found some locally made elk brats and thought they would be wonderful in a cassoulet. They are not a garlic sausage, so I’ll add 1 whole garlic clove for each sausage in the sausage mixture (in addition to the mashed garlic). Plus some lightly smoked bacon from locally raised hogs instead of the poultry at step 2.
Leftover chicken version: I had some leftover Greek Slow-Roast Chicken (with lemon, garlic and fresh oregano) I needed to use up. I decided to use the pieces in this recipe, along with some lamb and garlic sausage. I sprouted cannelini beans, then cooked them starting with onion saute (in olive oil), adding wine, beans, stock, etc.. per recipe. Added spent lemon halves (from juicing), cut again in half, to beans while cooking in oven, then removed them before adding sausage mixture. Then added the leftover chicken meat to the beans with the sausages and continued with recipe. This was delicious!
Serves 4 – 6
Ingredients & Equipment:
- ¾ pound small white beans, such as cannelini (dried)
- warm filtered water
- 1 ½ Tbsp whey or lemon juice
- 4 fresh or preserved duck legs or
- 4 fresh smoked chicken drumsticks or thighs
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 – 3 cups beef stock or chicken stock
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- fresh thyme & bay leaves, tied together
- 4 lamb & garlic sausages
- olive oil
- 1 can (14.5 oz) Organic whole/crushed tomatoes, or pureed fresh tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled, whole or halved if large (optional)
- 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup whole-grain bread crumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan (optional)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 3 or 4 quart wide and shallow casserole with lid (or foil)
- cast iron pan
- blender, food processor, or sieve
- Cover beans with warm water. Stir in whey or lemon juice and leave in a warm place overnight (24 hours). Check after a few hours and add more water as necessary. The longer they soak, the shorter the cooking time. To sprout them, drain after 24 hours, and rinse 2 – 3 times/day until tails appear, 3 days.
Duck/Chicken & Beans
- Saute duck pieces in their own fat, or chicken pieces in a little olive oil (or just lightly smoked bacon) until browned on all sides, in a heavy flameproof wide and shallow casserole (or in cast iron pan). Remove meat and set aside.
- Saute onion in remaining fat in pan; add wine and boil down.
- Drain beans, rinse and add to the pot along with stock (if you sprouted beans, you’ll need less broth than if you did an overnight soak). Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes (very important, to ensure soft beans) and skim. If you used a fry pan to brown the meat, transfer beans to casserole dish.
- Stir in lemon juice, garlic, ground cloves and thyme/bay leaf.
- Return duck pieces to the casserole, cover and bake at 350° F about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile brown sausages in olive oil, in a cast iron pan. (Leave them whole, or slice)
- Pulse canned tomatoes in blender a couple times (or push through a sieve), and add to the sausages. Add garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Go light with salt if using smoked chicken (it is quite salty). Cover and simmer about 1 hour (30 minutes if you sliced the sausages).
- About 30 minutes before casserole in oven is finished, add lamb mixture to casserole; stir and adjust seasoning.
- When beans are tender, remove thyme and bay leaf.
- Saute bread crumbs in butter until browned, in cast iron pan. Mix with parsley & cheese; strew over casserole. Bake another 20 minutes, uncovered, until crumbs are crusty.
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig.