- ½ pound dried small white beans, like pea or navy
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes, with their juice (canned are fine)
- 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ pound slab bacon or salt pork, in 1 piece
- 4 sweet Italian sausages, about 3/4 pound
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder
- 2 duck legs (confit if possible)
- Chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water, or a mixture, as needed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup plain bread crumbs, optional
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Combine beans, crushed garlic, onion, carrots, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and meats in a slow cooker, and turn heat to high. You can brown the sausages and duck legs in a skillet before, if you’d like. Add stock or water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and cook until beans and meats are tender, 5 to 6 hours on high heat, 7 hours or more on low.
When done, add salt and pepper to taste, along with minced garlic. If you like, remove cassoulet from slow cooker, and place in a deep casserole; cover with bread crumbs and roast at 400 ° until bread crumbs brown, about 15 minutes. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Three caveats before I begin: I’ve never been a big fan of Mark Bittman, but was intrigued by the idea of an easy cassoulet. If you think something is weird in a recipe, trust your gut and figure out a work-around. Finally, you have to cook with love and if you don’t things never taste as good. This was made in a series of bad-mood days and it was reflected in the finished product.
You’ve probably gotten the idea that this wasn’t one of my better meals. As a matter of fact, it was one of the worst. It started out with good ingredients, beautiful dried beans, sausages (breakfast, not Italian — really Mark?) from Four Legs Farm, ditto the pork shoulder. I had homemade duck legs confit and breadcrumbs from a recent baguette.
First sign of trouble — ignoring the warning signs in my head that the beans should have been soaked overnight before going in the pot. After the first day of cooking (and it was more than the 5-7 hours given) the beans were rock hard and inedible. The pot went on the back porch to cool down, we went out to eat. Long story short, I cooked everything for about three days, before the beans were tender enough to eat. By that time, we were both well over our cassoulet cravings, so we foisted it off as dinner on an unknowing, but very polite friend (sorry Laura!). It was essentially mush, and what might have been distinct flavors on day one or two, were just different textures.
So, except for the buttermilk biscuits I use for making strawberry shortcakes, I’m through with Bittman! But not cassoulet — I had a great one in Nice!