An authentic French cassoulet – how do the French do it?? The beans are never dry, and the crust is never soggy.
We get a lot of people emailing us questions on how to recreate something authentically, and an authentic French cassoulet is one that many want to master!
The secret? Soaking the beans overnight, and using gelatin.
It takes a little bit of effort going authentic, but follows our steps, and you’ll be rewarded with the best cassoulet you can eat without having to hop on a flight to France!
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours (plus overnight to soak beans)
Total time: 6.5 to 7.5 hours
1 pound of dried cannellini beans
3 tablespoons of salt
1 quart of low sodium chicken stock
3/4 ounces of unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons of duck fat
8 ounces of salt pork
6 to 8 pieces of chicken drumsticks and thighs (or you can use 4 whole chicken leg quarters)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of garlic sausage (about 2 to 4 links)
1 large onion (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
1 whole head of garlic
4 sprigs of parsley
How to make your Traditional French Cassoulet:
1) Pour 3 quarts water into a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons salt. Place the cannellini beans in the water and stir. Allow it to sit at room temperature overnight. This helps to keep the beans tender when you cook them. The next day, drain and rinse beans. Set aside.
2) Preheat your oven to 300°F. Place the chicken stock into a measuring cup and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Using gelatin in the cooking liquid helps you get a great crust on your cassoulet as it bakes. Set aside.
3) Use kitchen shears to cut the salt pork into 3/4 inch cubes.
4) Heat the duck fat in a large Dutch oven over a high heat until it shimmers.
5) Add the salt pork cubes to the duck fat. Cook for about 8 minutes and stir occasionally until brown. Pick out the salt pork with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
6) Season the chicken pieces with pepper (do not use salt to season) and place into the Dutch oven that previously had the salt pork. Place skin side down.
7) Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, without moving the chicken pieces, till well browned. Flip the chicken pieces and continue cooking for another 3 minutes till lightly brown on this side. Pick out the chicken pieces and place in the same bowl as the salt pork.
8) Add the sausages to the Dutch oven, and cook till browned on all sides, turning occasionally. Transfer to the bowl containing the salt pork and the chicken pieces.
Keep about 2 tablespoons of duck fat in the Dutch oven and drain the rest.
9) Finely dice the onion using a sharp knife and cutting board, and add to the Dutch oven. Cook for about 4 minutes until the onions are translucent (not browned). Drain the cannellini beans, and add to Dutch oven.
10) Cut the carrot into 3 inch sections (no need to peel the carrot, just scrub clean). Also, cut the celery into 3 inch sections. Add carrots, celery, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, and parsley to the Dutch oven. Add the chicken stock and gelatin mixture.
11) Over a high heat, bring to a simmer. Then reduce to low heat, and cover the Dutch oven. Cook for about 45 minutes until the cannellini beans are almost tender but have a slight bite.
12) Using tongs, pick out the carrots, celery, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, and parsley and throw away. Add all the meats in the bowl you set aside earlier and add to Dutch oven.
Stir the mixture and make sure the chicken pieces are on top of the beans, skin facing upwards. The cannellini beans should be submerged.
13) Transfer to a pre-heated oven and cook for about 2 hours, without cover, until it forms a thin crust on top.
Use a kitchen timer to make sure you don’t overcook your cassoulet.
If necessary, add water by pouring it carefully down the side of the pot so the beans stay mostly covered.
14) With a spoon, break the crust and shake the Dutch oven gently to redistribute. Return to oven and continue cooking. Keep cooking for another 2 1/2 hours, stopping every 30 minutes to break and shake the crust.
Return to oven and continue cooking, undisturbed, for another 1 to 2 hours until the crust is thick and deep brown.
Serve immediately. Bon Appétit!