Apparently cassoulet is much more popular than I thought. As soon as I said I was making it, a handful of people got extremely interested and hungry. There's just something about a hearty cassoulet when the snow is falling and you're cozy at home. I adapted Thomas Keller's recipe for a slow-cooker cassoulet, which somewhat streamlines the process but stays true to the essence of the dish. I did find it odd that his recipe did not call for duck confit, but it is true that not every cassoulet is made with it. Mine was, I couldn't resist. I did not, however, make that part on my own.
I did soak my own beans, which seems to go without saying for a dish like this, but I was surprised to find out in a recent meeting that this is considered time-consuming and a hassle. I don't understand how putting beans in a bowl with water and ignoring it is a hassle, but apparently many people do. I was actually told that people might think it's culinarily snobby to require that, but seriously? Soaking dried beans is like the opposite of culinary snobbery. It's the cheapest, most peasant way to feed a gang of people. Duck confit, that's snobbery.
I adjust the god-chef's recipe a bit because his was written for that fancy schmany All-Clad slow cooker with the cast iron insert that you can use on the stove and in the oven. I have a lesser slow cooker, so I did the first several steps on the stove in a separate pan. I also decided to use pork bones instead of a pork shoulder roast, partially because I couldn't find a particularly small roast, and partially because I thought the bones would add a lot of flavor, which they did. Opposite of snobbery. The supreme cheapness also balanced out the cost of the duck confit. Balancing out the snobbery.
In short, Cassoulet appears to be misinterpreted as both a difficult and snobbish dish. To me, time + simple ingredients + beans = the most down to earth dinner you can get. Recipe after the jump:
SLOW COOKER CASSOULET
Adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller at Williams Sonoma.com
4 lb. pork bones
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 cup panko
4 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
4 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (35 oz.) peeled Italian plum tomatoes, drained and
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups dried Great Northern beans, picked over, rinsed and
1 1/2 lb. fresh chorizo sausage, each halved on the bias
2 duck confit legs
1 garlic head, halved crosswise
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 lb. baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
Coarse sea salt, such as sel gris, for garnish
Season the pork generously with kosher salt and pepper; set aside.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the canola oil and panko. Cook, stirring constantly, until the panko is toasted and golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the panko to a baking sheet and season with kosher salt and pepper.
Add the bacon to the pan and cook until crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the bacon fat in the pan.
Add half of the pork to the pan and brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining pork.
Add the onions and 1 tsp. kosher salt to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and softened, about 7 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes and broth. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and add the beans, pork, chorizo, duck legs, and garlic.
Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender and the pork pulls apart easily with a fork, about 7 hours. Skim off the fat, and remove and discard the garlic. Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and pepper. Fold in the panko and the 1/4 cup parsley. (I chose to simply top the cassoulet with the bread crumbs for two reasons. 1. I wanted to keep them crispy, 2. the cassoulet was already so thick that it did not need the crumbs mixed in.)
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat the broiler.
Brush the baguette slices with olive oil. Arrange the slices, oiled side up, on top of the cassoulet, overlapping them. Broil until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
Let the cassoulet stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle each serving with the reserved bacon, sea salt and parsley. Serves 8 to 10.