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Paula Wolfert’s Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse

Paula Wolfert’s Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse

  • Total Time: 0 hours


  • 2 pounds (900 g) dried Tarbais, cannellini, or other runner-type beans
  • 1 ½ pounds (675 g) fresh ham hock with skin
  • 1 pound (450 g) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
  • 12 ounces (350 g) fresh pork skin with ¼-inch (6-mm) layer of hard fat attached
  • Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup (75 g) rendered duck fat
  • 2 yellow onions (about 1 pound | 450 g total), chopped
  • 3 small carrots (about 12 ounces | 350 g total), cut into rounds 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 8-ounce (225-g) piece ventrèche (French-style pancetta) or pancetta
  • 1 head garlic, loose skins removed, plus 4 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large Roma tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Herb bouquet of 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, 3 small celery ribs, 2 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 Turkish bay leaf, tied together with kitchen string
  • 2 quarts (2 l) lightly salted chicken stock
  • 6 confit duck legs, homemade or store-bought
  • 4 ounces (115 g) pork fatback
  • 1 pound (450 g) Toulouse or other mild fresh garlicky pork sausages (such as sweet Italian sausage)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil (optional) (TFD NOTE – I don’t consider this optional!)


  1. Day One:
  2. Rinse the beans and pick them over to remove any grit. In a deep bowl or pot, combine the beans with water to cover by at least 2 inches (5 cm). Let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. In a shallow dish, sprinkle the ham hock, pork shoulder, and pork skin with ¾ teaspoon salt and 10 grinds of pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Day Two:
  5. In a saucepan, combine the pork skin with water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until plump and supple, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool. Roll up the pork skin, skin side out, and tie securely with kitchen string.
  6. Meanwhile, pat the ham hock and pork shoulder cubes dry with paper towels. In an 8- or 9-quart (8- or 9-l) oven-proof stainless steel or enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat.
  7. Add the pork shoulder and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Add the onions and carrots and sauté, stirring, until the onions are soft and golden, about 5 minutes.
  8. Nestle the ham hock and ventrèche in the casserole and cook, turning occasionally, until browned a little around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic head and tomato and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the pork skin and herb bouquet, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer gently for 1 ½ hours.
  9. Meanwhile, once the pork ragout has completed its first hour of cooking, start the beans. Drain them, then put into a large saucepan. Add fresh tepid water to cover by 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm), place on the stove top, and slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the beans immediately and add them to the simmering pork.
  10. Re-cover and continue simmering the pork and bean mixture until the beans are tender, at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, depending on the age and type of bean. (The beans should be fully cooked. They will not further soften when baked on day three.) Remove from the heat, let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  11. Day Three:
  12. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Remove the pork and bean ragout from the refrigerator and skim off any fat that has solidified on the surface, reserving 2 tablespoons. Set the ragout over low heat and rewarm to room temperature.
  13. Meanwhile, warm the duck confit to soften the fat: If using store-bought duck legs sealed in plastic pouches, submerge the pouches in a large bowl of hot water for 10 minutes or so. If using homemade confit, set the legs on a foil-lined sheet pan and rewarm in the oven. Pull the duck meat off the bones in large chunks. Discard the skin, bones, and any large, dark veins. Save any fat for another use (such as more confit). Set the meat aside.
  14. When the ragout has come to room temperature, pick out the garlic head, separate the cloves, and squeeze each clove to extract the pulp from its skin; return the pulp to the ragout. Remove and discard the herb bouquet. Pick out the ham hock and ventrèche, discarding bones, large fatty parts, and skin.
  15. Cut the remaining meat into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes and set aside. Pick out and untie the pork skin and cut into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces. Place the skin pieces, fat side down to prevent sticking, in the bottom of a 5 ½- to 6-quart (5½- to 6-l) casserole, preferably earthenware and at least 4 inches (10 cm) deep.
  16. In a food processor, combine the fatback and the 4 garlic cloves and process until pureed. Scrape the puree into the ragout and stir until blended. Bring the ragout to a simmer over low heat and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Fold in the cubed pork shoulder and ventrèche.
  17. Using a large slotted spoon or skimmer, add half of the ragout to the prepared casserole in an even layer, letting any excess liquid fall back into the pot. Scatter the duck confit on top of the ragout. Using the same spoon or skimmer, cover the confit layer with the remaining ragout.
  18. Taste the ragout cooking liquid and adjust the seasoning if necessary (there will probably be no need for salt). Ladle just enough of the ragout liquid over the ragout to cover it. Be sure to leave at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of “growing space” between the ragout and the casserole rim. Dollop the surface with the 2 tablespoons fat reserved from the chilled ragout.
  19. Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake for 1 ½ hours.
  20. Meanwhile, prick the sausages in several places. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausages, turning them a few times as needed, until browned all over, about 10 minutes.
  21. Transfer to a plate. Cut larger sausages into 3- to 4-inch (7.5- to 10-cm) pieces.
  22. Remove the casserole from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 275°F (135°C). Gently break up the skin that has formed on the surface of the beans, being careful not to disturb the layers of confit and pork skin beneath. Spacing them evenly, nestle the sausages partway down among the beans. Dust the surface of the cassoulet with the bread crumbs.
  23. Return the cassoulet to the oven and bake for 1 hour longer. If you like a dark brown crust, raise the heat to 400°F (200°C) after the first 30 minutes. After 1 hour, if the surface is still not browned to your liking, turn on the broiler (make sure the vessel you are using is broiler-safe). As needed, adjust the oven rack so that the rim of the cassoulet will be 7 to 8 inches (17.5 to 20 cm) from the heating element. Broil until richly browned, 2 to 5 minutes.
  24. Remove the cassoulet from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. (If you are using an earthenware vessel, place it on a cloth-lined surface to prevent cracking.) Just before serving, drizzle with the walnut oil, if using. Ladle onto plates and serve at once.
  25. * * *
  26. Reprinted with permission from Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life by Emily Kaiser Thelin, copyright 2017 ©.
  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
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