This cassoulet starts with layers of pork and chicken, adds two kinds of sausage, a braised pinto stew, peppers, onions, and carrots to make this the comfort meal to end all comfort meals.
Classic cassoulet does not allow for any shortcuts and requires a little planning, like 3 days of planning! I have shortened some of the time using olive oil instead of lard, foregoing the breadcrumb topping, and instead of a casserole I am allowing the beans and confit to complement one another instead of becoming an addition of the other.
There’s still some prep work required for the curing and slow cooking, but it is so doable and totally worth the extra work! Do not let the ingredients or the cooking times scare you. You really do not have to do much more than a few minutes of prepping and then just hanging out as it cures than slow cooks. You will be rewarded with succulent, tender cuts of meat and a stew packed with deep flavor.
What is confit?
The word confit derives from the French verb confire, which simply means to preserve. Confit is a process of curing, slow cooking, and preserving meat in its own fat. Back before refrigeration and freezers this was a crucial step in preserving meats. Properly confit’ed meats can last several weeks in a cool room, several months in a refrigerator.
The curing process!
Normally curing relies on large quantities of salt. With meat confit, however, curing is slowly cooking the meat in a large quantity of fat, creating a unique succulent texture. This process also preserves by forming a protective seal that stops oxygen and light from spoiling the meat.
Why go through all this work?
Today confit’ing is done for the flavor profiles rather than preserving. This process adds a refined texture with a luscious and rich flavor. It’s the preservation aspect of the confit that makes the flavor outstanding. In the end you are left with a dish of heavenly texture and taste.
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- 4 chicken legs
- 1 pound pork belly, cut in chunks
- 2½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons pepper
- 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 large sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 pounds *olive oil
- 1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced
- 1/2 pound garlic sausage, sliced
- 2 cups pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and trimmed, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1½ cups beer
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
Pat dry the chicken and place in an ovenproof stockpot with the pork. Season with the salt and pepper. Arrange garlic and thyme sprigs on top. Cover and chill overnight.
Place the pinto beans in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight.
Preheat oven to 200°F. Add the *olive oil to pork and chicken, cover and warm on stovetop over low heat until oil is warmed, about 10 minutes. Add enough oil to completely cover chicken.
Place in oven and bake until meat is very tender when pierced, at least 8 hours.
Spoon the cooking oil and fats into a deep, wide pan. Heat over medium heat until it reaches between 275° and 300° on a deep-fry thermometer. Add chicken legs.
Fry until chicken is lightly browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Focus more on the golden crisp skin on the chicken, not the time. The chicken is already cooked to perfection. The fryer is all about the crisp skin.
Using tongs carefully transfer chicken to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to drain. The chicken will be very tender so a slotted spoon might work better.
Meanwhile, drizzle some oil into a Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers; cook until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook for another minute.
Stir in the beans, beer, water, chicken broth, salt, and bay leaf. Bring beans to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low.
Simmer for 2 hours, or until beans are tender.
30 minutes before cooking is complete add the sausages.
When finished, remove bay leaf and season with salt, if needed.
*Traditionally lard was used for the oil. In this day of refrigeration lard is no longer necessary and can be substituted with olive oil. However, if you want some magic, a blend of olive oil and bacon lard will add outstanding flavor