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How to Make Cassoulet in a Slow Cooker

Local pinto beans
Local pinto beans from Cayuga Pure Organics

On Saturday night we threw a party for some friends and needed to find a solid anchor for the menu, something that would stand up to the punch (and help our friends stand up to the punch). With the lousy weather we wanted something warm and inviting that is filling and can be prepared well in advance. Enter cassoulet!

Cassoulet is a slow-cooked meat and bean stew. It’s traditional French peasant food. It was perfect. After about 2 hours of prep (1 hour if you have someone else butcher the duck), we put the slow cooker on “set it and forget it” mode and lifted the lid off when our friends showed up at 6:00. Thanks to the slow cooker, it was still warm (and even tastier) at 11 pm. Another winner from Art of the Slow Cooker.

This post is further proof that “we are not vegetarians“. We have purchased and cooked more meat in the past ten days than in the prior three months, so we’ve probably brought our annual diet closer to omnivorous. Last week’s list included three types of sausage and a duck. A whole duck. But we also bought pinto beans that turned into the most delicious, creamy perfection in this dish, so it’s not all about the meat. Plus, thanks to the extensiveness of the Union Square greenmarket, the entire dish was made with high-quality, local ingredients, so we know the pig, duck, and lamb were treated well and fed appropriately.

The main ingredientsOur roster of local, healthy meat

Feel free to mess around with the ingredients, keeping the proportions roughly similar.

Slow Cooker Cassoulet
Adapted from Art of the Slow Cooker
Serves 12

Ingredients:

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Square Greenmarket)
1 pound Pinto beans Soaked overnight in at least twice as much water Cayuga Pure Organics *
1
(~ 4 pound)
Duck Bone-in but butchered into 2 breasts, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 2 wings (We froze the rest of the misc. part b/c we’re going to try to make stock) Hudson Valley Duck *
1 pound Boneless lamb leg or shoulder Cut into 1 inch cubes Catskill Merino Sheep Farm *
To taste Salt and pepper
8 ounces Russian sausage (pork)
(or other garlic sausage)
Cut into bite-sized rounds Flying Pigs Farm *
8 ounces Smoked pork kielbasa
(or other smoked sausage)
Cut into bite-sized rounds Flying Pigs Farm *
2 small Yellow or white onions Chopped Paffenroth Gardens *
4 cloves Garlic Chopped finely Keith’s Farm *
1/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 Whole cloves
1/2 cup Riesling wine
(or other dry white wine)
Château Renaissance *
1 jar
(28-32 oz)
Whole tomatoes Drained, liquid reserved Cherry Lane (canned in September) *
Chicken broth Enough to make 4 cups when added to the reserved tomato liquid From our freezer (I don’t remember where the ingredients came from.) *

Directions:

  1. Remove all visible fat and skin from the duck using a pair of sharp (and washable) scissors and put into a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook the fat and skin until they are almost crispy and most of the fat has rendered out. Discard any remaining pieces.
  2. While the fat is cooking, season the duck liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.

    Duck limbsA whole duck, cut to pieces

  3. Put the duck pieces in the hot pan, skin side down, and cook until nicely brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, again for about 4 minutes.

    Browning the duckDuck parts browned in case iron

  4. While the duck is browning, cut the lamb into cubes and season all over with salt and pepper.
  5. After the duck has browned, set it aside in a baking pan to catch the drips. Add the lamb to the pan and brown, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Remove and add to the baking pan with with duck.

    LambSausage

  6. After the lamb has browned, add both types of sausages and brown, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes. Remove and add to the baking pan with the duck and lamb.

    Browned meat - sausageBrowned meat - lamb and duck

  7. Use a spoon to remove all but about a tablespoon of the fat in the pan. You can also pour this out into a heat-safe container, but be very careful not to let it drip down the side of the pan, because it could start a fire.
  8. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

    Browning the onions

  9. Add the garlic, nutmeg, Italian seasoning, and cloves. Cook for a minute until it starts to smell good.
  10. Add the wine and scrape the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan while it comes to a boil.
  11. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the pan with the tomato liquid and broth. Bring to a boil.

    Breaking up the stewed tomatoesCooking the tomatoes in cast iron

  12. While the liquid is coming to a boil, layer the meat and beans in your slow cooker. Beans, meat, beans, meat, beans.

    Layers 1 and 2:  beans and meatLayer 3:  more beans

    Layer 4:  more meatLayer 5:  more beans

  13. Once the liquid has come to a boil, pour it over the beans and meat in the slow cooker, put on the lid, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

    Slow-cooker full of beans and meatAssembled cassoulet

Sorry that there isn’t a picture of the final product. We were so busy with the party (and so excited to eat it) that we forgot to take a photo!

Of all of the pictures that we could find online of other bloggers’ cassoulet, Cathy Shambley’s looks the most like ours did. Our beans were brown instead of the traditional white because we used local Pinto beans, but otherwise they look remarkably similar. (If you Google “cassoulet” and go to “Images”, it is surprising how different the final dish can look.)

Cathy’s recipe is definitely a departure from ours. Hers is more traditional, and she made it using her own duck confit. We did not make a confit. We also swapped out some traditional ingredients with local ingredients, and we made it in a slow cooker. but, whatever path you want to take to get there, definitely make yourself some cassoulet!

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