I made this rustic, but elegant dish in my Slow Cooker. I’m wondering when Crock Pots became known as Slow Cookers? Possibly the marketing geniuses thought Crock Pot was not fancy enough. It is true if you change just one letter, it becomes a “Crack Pot”. Also if someone is telling you something less than truthful, you might say that it is a “Crock of S**t”. Possibly too many potential negative connotations. Anyway, this was the perfect way to cook this iconic French classic. By calling this a “Cassoulet” instead of “Casserole”, which it really is, the dish takes on a whole new identity.
Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole containing meat, white beans, herbs and veg. Originating in southern France, it is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the casserole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides, kind of like my slow cooker.
As with so many dishes, ingredients vary, but this Cassoulet is always slow cooked, and generally contains pork, often in the form of pork sausage, although duck or lamb may be added or used in place of the pork, as well. White beans are a must and I used the Cannellini Beans from Lesley Sykes Primary Beans Co. (www.primarybeans.com).
Although herbs vary, thyme is the most traditional for Pork Cassoulet. Here’s what I came up with…
SLOW COOKER PORK CASSOULET
1 pound Cannellini beans, or Great Northern’s or other white beans
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces and cooked until crispy
2 lbs. Country Style Pork Ribs (preferably bone-in)
4 large Pork neck bones (I used these because I could only find boneless Pork Ribs and the bones are necessary to bring about the correct depth of flavors. I was very lucky to find Pork Neck in my local super market. It’s quite delicious!)
3 cups rich Chicken Stock (preferably home-made)
1 cup white wine (I used Brancott Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.)
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced white onion
4 cloves garlic, about 2 Tbsp. roughly chopped
14 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning the pork
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves, not ground thyme
3 bay leaves
|I used half of this 1 lb. can of San Marzano’s.
For the Breadcrumb topping:
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (When I cut off crusts of bread or just have a piece or two left in a loaf, I grind them and keep in the freezer. If you don’t have fresh breadcrumbs use half Italian and half Panko.)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
I soaked the Cannellini beans for about 6 hours. Because these beans are dried, but not ancient they do not require overnight soaking.
Cook the bacon until crisp in a very hot, heavy bottomed skillet. I like to use cast iron. Set the bacon aside and pour off all but about 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat.
Very liberally salt all sides of the Pork Neck and Pork Ribs. Sear the Pork Neck bones (if using) on all sides until nicely browned.
|Pork Neck just going in the pan to brown.
Once browned on all 4 sides, remove from the pan, and brown the pork ribs in the same pan.
Add the ribs, neck, cooked bacon, chicken broth, tomatoes, wine, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme to the slow cooker. Stir. Cover. Cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 3 hours. Add the beans and cooking on low, cook for an additional 5 to 6 hours. Check every hour for seasoning and to make sure all ingredients are covered with broth. Add more chicken broth if necessary. When the pork is drop dead tender, remove from the slow cooker and with 2 forks shred the pork off the neck bones and shred the pork ribs. Add the meat back into the slow cooker and stir.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix the breadcrumb topping over medium high heat until well combined and slightly browned.
Pat the mixture gently over the top of the Cassoulet and remove the slow cooker insert and place in the oven to heat for about 10 minutes or until the topping is browned. Most modern slow cookers, aka crock pots, are oven safe up to 400 degrees. The breadcrumb topping gives a little extra thickness to the Cassoulet and also adds the perfect finish to the dish.
Serve with crusty French bread and a bright green salad for a perfect, comforting, rich and satisfying meal! I know you will enjoy this old-world French classic!
I HAVE A SPECIAL TREAT NEXT TIME
FOR OUR FEATHERED AND FURRY FRIENDS!
KEEP LOVING, STAY SAFE, COOK YOUR HEARTS OUT,
AND ENJOY EACH AND EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!