How To Make A Kaleberg Cassoulet

Our cassoulet recipe is basically Paula Wolfert's, as described in her book The Cooking of Southwest France. We've made a few minor changes over the years, and we've borrowed a bit here and there from other recipes, particularly Dany's recipe from Cleopatra in Blackheath, NSW. You may find this recipe a bit intimidating, and some of the ingredients challenging, but when all is said and done and baked in a 300F oven for several hours, cassoulet is just franks and beans done up right.


This recipe easily serves two dozen people. You can cut it in half if you wish. Also, this recipe requires a duck confit, duck fat and duck stock. You should make the duck confit at least two weeks in advance so it has some time to ripen.

• 3 pounds of boneless pork shoulder Pork butt works as well, but be leery of pork tenderloin; it's rather flavorless.
• 4 pounds fresh ham hock or pigs' knuckles You really want fresh, not smoked hocks or knuckles. These joints have lots of gelatin as well as savory meat.
• 2 pound fresh pork skin with a 1/4 inch layer of hard fat attached This can be tricky to find. Most butchers don't even have access to pig skin, while others may require that you buy 50 pounds as this is the basic distribution unit. We tend to go with Savenor's in Boston. If you just cannot get any pig skin, see if you can get any pork fat back with skin on it, cut off all but 1/4 inch of fat and then blanche it for five minutes. We've done this in a pinch, and it works.
• 4 pounds dry white beans This is a lot of white beans. We tend to use those little Great Northern beans, and they start small but they grow. Our cookbook has a warning never to triple the recipe. We did once and had enough cassoulet for 50 people.
• 1 pound bacon There is a lot of flexibility here. You can use lightly smoked bacon, or pancetta, or lean salt pork. This has to be a fatty bit of pork belly, mid-range in intensity.
• 10 tablespoons duck fat from a confit Did we mention that you'll need about two ducks worth of duck confit to make this dish? Well, you will. Make more and enjoy some duck confit and some cassoulet.
• 4 medium carrots Peel them and cut them into chunks.
• 4 medium onions Peel them and cut them into chunks.
• 2 heads of garlic This is about right, but use more if your garlic is mild.
1 pound European style cured ham You can use speck, Westphalian ham, prosciutto, Bayonne ham or just about any other "hard" cured ham.
• 2 medium tomatoes Use the best you can get this time of year.
• 4 quarts of chicken stock You can also use duck or goose stock. It is a good idea to make duck stock with the carcasses of the ducks you use in the confit. You can freeze it until cassoulet time.
• herb bouquets of 4 sprigs of parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf and 3 short stalks of celery If you are cooking in more than one pot, you will need to make multiple bouquets garni. Sometimes we use those little cheesecloth bags, sometimes we use a strip cheesecloth held shut with cooking twine. The ratios need not be precise, but we'll say go heavy on the parsley.
• 2 pounds of andouilettes This is a Cajun touch, but we figure that this is a good substitute for the original spicy French sausage.
• 2 ducks worth of duck confit For example, four breasts and four thighs would be about right. You can add more if you want.
• 1/2 pound hard pork fat back You can get by without this, but why?
• at least 8 cloves of garlic Peeled.
• 2 pounds garlic sausage Fresh pork and garlic sausages are best, but you can use Toulouse sausagesor cotechino.


Not counting the making of the duck confit and duck stock, this is a two day recipe. Most of the cooking times are approximate, and perhaps minimal. It is not easy to overcook a cassoulet. The mixture of cooked meats, beans and so on is referred to as the ragout which is French for stew, and in general, this recipe works by browning, preparing, boiling and cooking things and then adding them to the mix. Near the end, the mixture is separated and layered, but in general you will need one large pot that can work on the stove top and one large pot for the oven.

Do be advised that the beans will grow, so don't worry if your pot looks huge in comparison to the mixture. You may wind up needing a second pot anyway. Also, this is a forgiving dish. If you forget to add something, add it later. Precise timing is not as important as putting it all together.


  • Soak the beans in lots of cool water for an hour or two. This really does make a difference in the way they grow and get softer.
  • Cut the pork skin into 2 inch wide strips, or get your butcher to do this if you can as pork skin is hard to cut. Simmer them in boiling water for about 15 minutes, until they start getting softer and a bit translucent.
  • Blanche the bacon for three minutes. (You can use the same water).
  • Cut the pork shoulder into 2 inch cubes.
  • In a large metal pot heat up the duck fat and lightly brown the cubes of pork shoulder.
  • Add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions soften and start getting golden.
  • Add the ham hocks or pigs' knuckles and the blanched bacon. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the meats start to brown.
  • Add the heads of garlic, the ham and tomato and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add the duck stock and the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the beans. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil for 10 minutes. Then add them to the mixture.
  • Boil the andouillette for 30 minutes.
  • It sounds as if you need to carefully schedule the cooking times for the beans and andouillette so you can add everything at just the right time, but in practice this is ridiculous. Just make sure the ragout has its half hour or so, then start adding to it. It won't overcook.
  • Add the andouillette and a cup or two of the boiling sausage water to the mix.
  • Add the strips of pig skin to the ragout.
  • Cook everything on the stove top for another half hour to hour. Watch out as the beans will begin to grow. If you need to use two separate pots, do so, but make sure you have a bouquet garni for each pot.
  • Cool and refrigerate overnight.


  • Set out the duck confit so it warms up a bit. This will make it easier to get pieces out of the jar or crock.
  • Blanche the fat back for a few minutes. Rinse and drain it. Grind it into a puree with the peeled garlic cloves. (If you want, you can grind in some sprigs of parsley here for a brighter flavor).
  • Get the ragout from the refrigerator and add this fat back and garlic mix. Simmer together for a half an hour to an hour.
  • Remove the bouquet garni.
  • Preheat the oven to 300F.
  • Remove the rolls of pork skin from mixture where they have now cooked a bit. Spread them out in a huge oven ready dish with their fat side down. The skin side will stick.
  • Cover with about half of the white beans.
  • Remove the ham hock or pigs' knuckles and extract the succulent bits of meat. Scatter these bits and the pork shoulder on top of the beans.
  • Cut up the andouillette into 1 inch chunks and add them to this meat layer.
  • Add about two ducks worth of duck confit to this layer, removing any loose bones and as much fat as you can. (If you want, you can defat the duck confit pieces in a frying pan).
  • Cut up the bacon and ham and add the chunks to the ragout.
  • Put the rest of the beans on top. (As you can see in our picture, we don't really sort everything out perfectly. Paula Wolfert actually makes a three layer "lasagna" of a cassoulet, but the only important things are the skin on the bottom, beans, meats, then beans on top).
  • Add cooking liquid from the original mixture to cover.
  • Bake in the oven for two hours. The oven temperature should be around 300F. You can cook at 275F, but you should raise the temperature at some point or the skin layer will gelatinize, but not brown. Ideally, it should brown lightly. (Yes, it is at the bottom where you can't see it, but what are spoons for. Yes, you can raise the oven temperature to 325F or even 350F for a while if things are cooking too slowly).
  • Stiffen the garlic sausages in boiling water for a few minutes.
  • Broil the garlic sausages separately, then cut them up and put them on top of the baked cassoulet. (Alternatively, you can just lay out the stiffened sausage slices on top of the cassoulet while it is baking and skip the broiling step).