A very approachable version of the French classic white bean and meat stew... Make-Ahead Pressure Cooker Cassoulet is warming, comforting, and has all the flavors of the traditional. Use a pressure-cooker to speed up the process, and freeze a portion for a quick and delicious meal later!
What is "cassoulet?" Why, my husband's favorite dish of course! Well, it is his favorite (or so he says every time I make it), but in the most simple sense, it is a stew made with white beans and meat. However, it can be anything but simple, and often quite complex. Thus, we don't make it when we're in a hurry 😉
A first-rate Organizer is never in a hurry. He is never late. He always keeps up his sleeve a margin for the unexpected.
~~ Arnold Bennett, British novelist, essayist, playwright, critic, 1867-1931
I have something of an obsession for good and healthy food. I don't enjoy many of the local eateries, and fast food is "a fate worse than death" for this girl. In recent months, I have spent some of my time in the kitchen working on recipes that freeze well, and allow me quick options when there is no time to cook. This cassoulet does take a bit of time to prepare, but portioning the beans and meat stew prior to baking in a casserole makes it perfect for a fresh meal or two at a later date. I promise you it won't resemble leftovers!
Cassoulet originated in the south of France, and is named after its traditional cooking vessel - the cassole - a deep, heavy earthenware pot. It had its humble start as a peasant dish of dried beans, sausages, and preserved meats. In contemporary society, French cassoulet chefs may argue fanatically about what cassoulet is - and isn't - as though it is haute cuisine. Some prefer goose, others duck, still others rabbit... Argue as they may, it is a delicious though humble peasant dish. Duck confit is a traditional ingredient which is now considered to be a luxury ingredient and not widely available. Its inclusion was more a matter of necessity due to lack of refrigeration. Duck, rabbit, and goose may have been cheap and widely available to French farmers in medieval times, but in Las Cruces, New Mexico they are not.
If I may be so bold, I would suggest that the combination of slow cooking the meats with the beans is what "makes magic" in this dish. I have used different combinations of sausages, pork, chicken, smoked turkey leg, bacon, etc. - all with delicious results. My Make-Ahead Cassoulet starts with mirepoix - the combination of chopped onion, celery, and carrots used to flavor many dishes - and of course garlic and olive oil. Always fat and calorie conscious, I slow cook (or pressure cook) the beans with a smoked turkey leg. Sausage is a must, and any good quality garlicky sausage will work. I love the flavor of chorizo or linguiςa, but even a kielbasa or smoked sausage will do. Lastly, I include boneless chicken (breast or thigh) and/or boneless lean pork, and a generous handful of herbs like fresh rosemary and thyme.
I am most often cooking for two. This recipe will serve 10-12 depending on serving size, and how much of each ingredient ends up in the pot. Of course you can make one large casserole, and serve a group. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I love pulling a lovely dish like this one out of the freezer on a busy night, and turning it into a fresh meal. I simply fill my individual ramekins with a generous portion, top with fresh seasoned crumbs, and pop them into the oven for about 30-45 minutes. While the casseroles bake, I throw together a leafy green salad. What could be more simple? I like to think this makes me a "first-rate Organizer."
In summary, the process (in my kitchen) goes like this: I pressure-cook my white beans with a smoked turkey leg, a 6" sprig of fresh rosemary, and 2 bay leaves for 45 minutes - until the beans are almost tender and the meat comes easily off the bone. While the beans cook, I prep the other ingredients. After the pressure-cooker is de-pressurized, I remove the turkey leg and allow it to cool. The mirepoix and garlic go into the pot first, followed by raw meat (chicken, pork, duck), the sausage (chorizo, linguiςa, kielbasa), and finally, the beans, smoked turkey, tomatoes, and herbs. Simmer together for 30 minutes. At this point, you can prepare the crumbs and cook the entire dish, or you can make individual casseroles as shown in the photo and freeze the rest. Use whatever combination of meats appeal to you, and enjoy!
For more on cassoulet, I found this article How to Make Traditional Cassoulet (And Why You Should Put Chicken in It!) from Serious Eats to be informative and interesting.
For more on cooking beans in a pressure-cooker, I found this article How To Cook Beans In a Pressure Cooker to be helpful.