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Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew Recipe

It’s not every day that a Cassoulet or simple bean stew recipe comes along and proceeds to absolutely blow your mind.

With Great Appreciation, This Recipe is Modified by the L’hostellerie de l’Eveche in Alet-les-Bains, Occitanie, France from an original by Paula Wolfert, My Favorite Cookbook Author.

This recipe is an 8-hour, multi-step method that I approach in 3 parts over 3 days, so plan accordingly. The results are well worth it!

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew Recipe

What Is Bean Stew Made of Aside from Beans?

Bean stew is comprised of a richly seasoned broth, heavily caramelized vegetables, and of course, beans. Creamy white beans are a traditional ingredient when assembling a true Cassoulet, however in this method, I am using an array of beans. Whether a white bean stew recipe or a mixed bean stew recipe, this method follows the same protocols.

What Does It Mean When Bean Stew Is Made in a Cassoulet-style?

Cassoulet is a traditional French dish of white beans baked and braised with meats. Its name comes from the type of pot it’s cooked in, the cassole d’Issel. Cassoulet originated in the Languedoc region in southwest France, a place I am VERY familiar with. Cassoulet was once considered a working man’s or farmhouse fare. It’s very hearty and fills the soul. I bring a modified version of a complex dish that you will find easy to work through.

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

Smack dab in the midst of summer may not seem to be the time for a bean stew but I assure you, it really is the BEST time. How and why, you ask?

Because summer vegetables are plentiful and herbs, of which we will use many in this dish, are flourishing. When tomatoes begin coming in, I always look forward to assembling a bean stew recipe, this one Cassoulet-style to incorporate smoked ham and sausages.

When shopping for the ingredients for this recipe, be sure to pick up one or two baguettes. Crusty bread is a must to accompany this rich yet inexpensive meal.

Do You Have What’s Needed for This Bean Stew Recipe? Check the List!

  • pork or lamb stew meat or a combination of both
  • smoked ham hocks
  • salt pork
  • fat back (pork skin with a fat cap attached)
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • dry cannellini beans, white navy beans, tarbais beans, pinto beans or kidney beans or a combination thereof
  • duck fat or goose fat
  • fresh carrots
  • onions
  • hunk of pancetta
  • hunk of prosciutto
  • full head of garlic plus additional 4 to 6 loose cloves
  • large, very ripe plum tomato
  • homemade chicken stock
  • white wine
  • Bouquet garni: 4 parsley sprigs, 3 small celery ribs, 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied with string
  • a single whole clove
  • six legs duck confit
  • vegetable oil
  • French-style fresh pork sausages
  • dried breadcrumbs

How This Recipe Came About…

The method I bring today comes straight from a lovely hotel tucked away in Alet-les-Bains in Occitanie, France. The chef at L’hostellerie de l’Eveche was kind enough to offer me his version of their house special.

I was quite surprised to learn his method didn’t involve the usual 5-day means of preparation (smoking the meats, etc.), rather an abbreviated version with knock-your-socks-off flavor. I was also quite surprised to learn his method was borrowed from an American cookbook author who happens to be an authority on French food.

He explained that when preparing for large gatherings like weddings or a public wine tasting, he had to be able to make a lot but also make it quickly IF you consider an 8+ hour recipe (with complete chill-downs in between) ‘quickly,’ renowned American author and authority on French cooking, Paula Wolfert’s incredibly accurate method brings a Cassoulet-style bean stew recipe into the realm of everyday cookery.

a quaint hotel in a hamlet in France

If heading to the South of France anytime soon, make sure to book a stay in Alet les Bains at L’hostellerie de l’Eveche for amazing food, amazing history and grounds, and the BEST night’s sleep you’ll not soon forget.

How Do You Prepare Dried Beans for Cooking?

You will need about 2-pounds of dried beans for this recipe. In order to cook with dried beans, they must be soaked first.

Soaking overnight and then discarding the soaking water helps to leach out the complex sugars in beans that are responsible for gas production. The breakdown of those complex sugars makes beans easier for us to digest. They also cook faster.

Long Soaking

To long-soak beans, first rinse them in a colander and remove any small stones or pieces of debris. This is important as I almost always come across a pebble or two in this step.

Once picked over, add the beans to a large stockpot and fill with water and adding two to three inches over the beans. Beans bulge and swell as they soak, so the extra few inches of water is essential.

Cover the stockpot and allow the beans to soak for a minimum of 6 hours or ideally overnight (not longer than 10 hours).

dried beans soaking in water

Short Soaking

To short-soak beans, first rinse them in a colander and remove any small stones or pieces of debris. This is the same step number 1 as in the long soak.

Add the picked-over beans to a deep saucepan. Add water to cover the beans by two to three inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, cover tightly with a lid, and allow the beans to sit and soak for 1 hour.

The beans should appear swollen and soft, and their skins should easily slip away when gently squeezed. Drain the water from the beans and you’re ready for cooking.

a pile of mixed dried beans

What Kind of Beans Are Best for A Bean Stew Recipe?

If you look closely at my photos, you’ll see I like to cook this Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew with a mix of beans. When shopping for dried beans, there are many different bags with many varieties of beans.

A true Cassoulet or white bean stew uses cannellini or white beans. I do not subscribe to using just one type of bean, rather a mix of Tarbais, cannellini, pinto, and sometimes black beans.

a wooden spoon, with creamy white beans
Tarbais Beans

Tarbais beans are described by those who swear by them as an edible tour de force. They are ultra-creamy beans and are the quintessential ingredient in cassoulet. They are standard on the menu for all types of meals everywhere in the south of France.

Cannellini beans are described as silky when cooked and mildly nutty tasting. They are a meatier bean than white beans or great northern beans and retain both their shape and texture in long cooks.

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

Do I Have to Use Dried Beans or Can I Use Canned?

Okay, confession time…I have been known to dump a can of rinsed cannellinis into this recipe at the end. I do not however recommend canned beans solely in this recipe as the ensemble loses the earthy and complex layers of flavor intended.

If you want to use a canned bean ONLY AFTER starting with a dried bean(s), add at the very end of the recipe and only cook them long enough to get them hot. Canned beans will begin to break down immediately upon hitting your hot pot of ingredients.

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

Can I Make This in A Slow Cooker?

Yes, but only the last of it. I know I will receive this question so better to answer now. Why only in the end?

This stew will absolutely go low and slow, the very reason we whip out those trusty crockpots in the first place. But in this method, there are many varying degrees of doneness individual ingredients need to get to before they are combined in the ‘final’ stew.

If you want to finish this dish in the slow cooker, it will merely be to re-warm it after a complete cool down. To sauté onions, parboil sausages, and caramelize the vegetables you will need a large frying pan or cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, and other saucepan(s),

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

Can I Use Other Meats Aside from Pork?

Yes. If you do not consume pork, look for smoked beef sausages, duck sausages or chicken sausages (raw, not fully cooked) and consider confit duck or chicken legs. Confit simply refers to duck or chicken cooked slowly over a long period of time in its own fat to preserve it.

You can oftentimes find confit duck or chicken in your butcher’s case in the grocery. Otherwise, consider purchasing from reputable provision sellers such as D’Artagnan.

sausages

How Long Does It Take to Make a Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew?

Not gonna lie, this is a lengthy method, NOT HARD, just lengthy. DO read through the entire list of instructions prior to beginning as the first stage requires an overnight soak and a meat method/refrigeration.

I like to save this recipe for a rainy Saturday when I know I’ll be pent up inside for most of the day. The good news is that this recipe may be made ahead up to a stage and refrigerated for up to three days before it becomes necessary for you to jump back in to complete.

The best recipes aren’t always easy recipes; however, this hearty bean stew really is an easy recipe. It makes a good amount so there are fabulous leftovers for busy weeknights.

a copper bowl, with bean stew and baguette

Can This Hearty Stew Be Frozen?

Yes, any leftovers may be portioned and frozen for up to 3 months. Simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and warm over medium heat in a large saucepan. Et voilà!

How To Make This Bean Stew Recipe?

Salting the Meats

Grab a large baking dish and place the smoked ham hocks, pork or lamb stew meat cubes and fat back inside; season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper before covering to refrigerate overnight. In a stockpot, cover the beans with enough water to exceed by 3 inches and soak overnight.

A chef’s note here…if you are like me, you save those Christmas and Easter ham bones. Now is the time and THE RECIPE (!!!) to use them!

Beginning the Stew

The following day, cover the salt pork and fat back with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderate heat, about 30 minutes.

Drain and cool slightly before cutting the fat back into 5 long pieces. Roll each piece as you’d roll up a rug and tie/secure with kitchen twine. Refrigerate the salt pork for now.

Building the Ragout

Dry the ham hocks and stew meat cubes with a paper towel. In your largest Dutch oven, heat the duck fat.

Add half the stew meat and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned all over. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon and repeat with the remaining stew meat.

Add the smoked ham hocks to the Dutch oven and brown them lightly. This is the beginning of “building” your ragout and it’s important to take your time.

Add the carrots and onions and the single whole clove and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Use a spoon to remove the clove.

Add the hunk of pancetta and brown it lightly. Add the hunk of prosciutto, the head of garlic and the tomato and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the white wine. Return to the heat and add 2 quarts of the homemade chicken stock, the bouquet garni, the fat back rolls, and all the seared stew meat and any collected juices and bring to a boil.

Cover the casserole and gently simmer the ragout over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Drain the beans. In a large saucepan, cover the beans with fresh water and bring to a boil over moderate heat. DO NOT USE THE WATER THE BEANS SOAKED IN OVERNIGHT.

Simmer the beans for 3 minutes, then drain again. Spoon the beans into the ragout and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 2 hours.

Let the ragout cool, then refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to rise to the surface and solidify.

Completing the Ragout

The following day, remove as much of the solidified fat as you can from the surface of the ragout, reserving about 1/4 cup. Let the ragout return to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Pick out the ham hocks, pancetta, and prosciutto. Cut the meats into bite-size pieces; discard the bones, skin, and gristle.

Pick out the pork skin bundles and the head of garlic and reserve. Discard the bouquet garni.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring the ragout to a simmer.

Cut the refrigerated, boiled salt pork into small pieces. Squeeze the cooked garlic cloves into a food processor.

Add the salt pork and the raw garlic cloves and process to a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the ragout and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in all the cooked meats.

Assembling the Ragout for Baking

Meanwhile, arrange the duck confit legs in a baking dish and roast just until heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the bones in large pieces.

Cut the skin into strips. Discard the bones.

Turn the oven down to 325° F. Untie and unroll the fat back rolls.

Line the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart earthenware casserole with the fat back. Using a large, slotted spoon, transfer half of the ragout to the earthenware casserole.

Top with the torn pieces of duck confit in an even layer, then cover with the remaining ragout. Add the remaining 2 cups of broth to the cooking liquid in the cast-iron casserole and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Pour the liquid over the ragout and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved skimmed fat. Bake the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausages and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Let cool, then cut the sausages into 3-inch chunks.

Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Gently stir in the skin that has formed on the cassoulet.

Nestle in the sausage chunks and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of reserved fat. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour longer, until it is bubbling around the edges and richly browned on the surface. Transfer to a wooden board or towel-lined cooling rack and allow to rest for at least 25 minutes before serving.

If You Like This Recipe…

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Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew Recipe

It's not every day that a Cassoulet or simple bean stew recipe comes along and proceeds to absolutely blow your mind.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Keyword: bean stew recipe, cassoulet, dried beans, soup and stew
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 938kcal
Cost: $3.79 per serving

Want a bigger or smaller serving size? Hover over the serving size and move the bar until you get the number of servings you want. Easy.

Equipment

  • large Dutch oven
  • large baking dish
  • medium saucepan
  • kitchen twine
  • reliable kitchen knife
  • mini chef prep or food processor
  • 5- to 6-quart earthenware casserole dish

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pork stew meat or lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 ham hocks smoked; great way to use leftover Christmas or Easter ham bones
  • 2 ounces salt pork skin removed
  • 6 ounces fat back trimmed leaving about 1/4-inch fat cap in-tact
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 pounds dried cannellini beans, white navy beans, tarbais beans, pinto beans or kidney beans or a combination thereof rinsed and picked through ensuring no small pebbles, etc.
  • 1/3 cup duck fat may also use goose fat; I purchase mine from D'Artagnan
  • 3 medium carrots thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 5 ounce chunk pancetta
  • 5 ounce chunk prosciutto
  • 1 head + 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large plum tomato chopped
  • 2 quarts + 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 fresh Bouquet garni 4 parsley sprigs, 3 small celery ribs, 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied with string
  • 1 single whole clove
  • 6 confit duck legs I purchase these from D'Artagnan
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound pork sausages I purchase these from D'Artagnan
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Instructions

This recipe is an 8-hour, multi-step method that I approach in 3 parts, so plan accordingly. The results are well worth it!

    Day 1

    • Grab a large baking dish and place the smoked ham hocks, pork or lamb stew meat cubes and fat back inside; season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper before covering to refrigerate overnight.
    • In a stockpot, cover the beans with enough water to exceed by 3 inches and soak overnight. NOTE: see my directions for both a long soak and a short soak in the article above.

    Day 2

    • The following day, cover the salt pork and fat back with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderate heat, about 30 minutes.
    • Drain and cool slightly before cutting the fat back into 5 long pieces. Roll each piece as you’d roll up a rug and tie/secure with kitchen twine. Refrigerate the salt pork for now.
    • Dry the ham hocks and stew meat cubes with a paper towel. In your largest Dutch oven, heat the duck fat. Add half the stew meat and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned all over. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon and repeat with the remaining stew meat. Add the smoked ham hocks to the Dutch oven and brown them lightly.
    • Add the carrots and onions and the single whole clove and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden, and the clove is fragrant, about 7 minutes. Use a spoon to remove the clove. Add the hunk of pancetta and brown it lightly. Add the hunk of prosciutto, the head of garlic and the tomato and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
    • Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the white wine. Return to the heat and add 2 quarts of the homemade chicken stock, the bouquet garni, the fat back rolls, and all the seared stew meat and any collected juices and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole and gently simmer the ragout over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    • Drain the beans. In a large saucepan, cover the beans with fresh water and bring to a boil over moderate heat. DO NOT USE THE WATER THE BEANS SOAKED IN OVERNIGHT. Simmer the beans for 3 minutes, then drain again. Spoon the beans into the ragout and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 2 hours.
    • Let the ragout cool, then refrigerate overnight to allow the fat to rise to the surface and solidify.

    Day 3

    • The following day, remove as much of the solidified fat as you can from the surface of the ragout, reserving about 1/4 cup. Let the ragout return to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pick out the ham hocks, pancetta, and prosciutto. Cut the meats into bite-size pieces; discard the bones, skin, and gristle. Pick out the pork skin bundles and the head of garlic and reserve. Discard the bouquet garni.
    • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
    • Bring the ragout to a simmer on the stove top. Cut the refrigerated, boiled salt pork into small pieces. Squeeze the cooked garlic cloves into a food processor. Add the salt pork and the raw garlic cloves and process to a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the ragout and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in all the cooked meats.
    • Arrange the duck confit legs in a baking dish and roast just until heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the bones in large pieces. Cut the skin into strips. Discard the bones.
    • Turn the oven down to 325° F.
    • Untie and unroll the fat back rolls. Line the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart earthenware casserole with the fat back. Using a large, slotted spoon, transfer half of the ragout to the earthenware casserole. Top with the torn pieces of duck confit in an even layer, then cover with the remaining ragout. Add the remaining 2 cups of broth to the cooking liquid in the cast-iron casserole and season lightly with salt and pepper.
    • Pour the liquid over the ragout and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved skimmed fat. Bake the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours.
    • Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausages and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Let cool, then cut the sausages into 3-inch chunks.
    • Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Gently stir in the skin that has formed on the cassoulet. Nestle in the sausage chunks and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of reserved fat. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
    • Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour longer, until it is bubbling around the edges and richly browned on the surface. Transfer to a wooden board or towel-lined cooling rack and allow to rest for at least 25 minutes before serving.

    Notes

    Please Note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not use table salt or iodized salt in any of the recipes you find on Not Entirely Average UNLESS specified otherwise.
    To Make Ahead prepare the bean stew through adding the garlic/salt pork paste up to 3 days ahead. Let cool, then refrigerate. Bring the ragout and beans to room temperature before proceeding.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1serving | Calories: 938kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 57g | Fat: 62g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 29g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 211mg | Sodium: 996mg | Potassium: 1054mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2644IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 7mg

    Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.

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