Casoulet is one of those dishes that is steeped in culinary myth. It is the risotto of French cooking. Common folklore indicates that risotto should be an all day affair where you must slowly cook the rice by adding in stock one tablespoon at a time. Similarly it is believed (in many circles) that cassoulet is a dish that requires three days of preparation before you can eat it.
I think that both of these commonly held beliefs are bunk. While it could be said that I cut a few corners while making my cassoulet the resulting dish was about 90% as delicious as cassoulet made using the traditional method. I consider this an acceptable loss since it took 71 hours and 20 minutes less time to make.
Prior to Jen's surgery I'd gone to three different grocery stores to try to get all the ingredients to make cassoulet. I had to make a few concessions. Firstly there was no duck to be found so I opted to just use chicken breast from the freezer. Also there was no French style sausage (there is never any French sausage at any supermarket in New York City that I've ever been to) so I used a standard Italian sausage. While I could find salt pork it was in a package so large that even if I froze the remainder it would be taking up space in my freezer for the next three years before I had the opportunity to use it up.
I sauteed one clove of garlic in a little olive oil and butter, added a can of tomatoes, brought that to a boil then added the remaining pinto beans from the farm. When that came up to a boil I put in some frozen turkey stock from Thanksgiving and simmered that, adding a little salt, pepper, and a touch of cayenne. While it was simmering I rendered a little pancetta then sliced up some prosciutto slices and browned a chicken breast and the sausage. After they were seared I added everything into the same pot and simmered for about ten minutes. Total cooking time: 40 minutes. Deliciousness factor as compared to the cassoulet we had in Paris: 90%.
See that? Only 40 minutes. I used the remaining twenty minutes to write this post and turn the culinary world on its ear. Net gain: 71 hours.
Now that, my friends, is how cassoulet is done.