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Cassoulet tacos

Put on your jeans, roll a packet of cigarettes in your white, short-sleeved shirt, and jump into Cook’s Illustrated’s Thunderbird: It’s time to make cassoulet tacos, and this is pretty much as close to James Dean as you can get in the kitchen if you’ve ever wanted to be a tortilla-rebel.

The ingredients

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans—I substituted with navy beans1
  • 2 medium celery ribs
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh French garlic sausage
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed or sliced
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 large slices high-quality white bread torn into rough pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

The steps

Image of cassoulet

Brine the beans: Dissolve 2 tbsp salt in 3 quarts cold water. Add beans to soak between 8-24 hours. Drain and rinse.

Pre-heat oven to 300°, and set wire-rack to the lower-middle position.

With kitchen-twine, tie celery and thyme together.

Combine 2 tbsp oil, bread, and parsley in a food processor. The crumbs should be large-ish, so about 10 quick pulses should do. Set aside.

Place sausages and pancetta in a pot, and cover with cold water, about one inch higher than the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove sausages to a cutting board, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Remove pancetta and set aside; also set water aside as you might need it later.

Heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. When smoke forms, add sausages and brown all sides. Remove sausages and set aside.

Add pork shoulder to pan, and brown all sides. Add onions and carrots, and stir constantly until onions are translucent.

Add garlic and tomato paste, and stir. Add sausage. Add white wine, and cook until slightly reduced, about 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes and stir. Add celery bundle and pancetta. Stir in broth and beans, making sure beans are in an even layer. Beans should be submerged so only the tops of them show—add aforementioned water if there isn’t enough liquid.

Turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hour.

Remove celery bundle, and season with salt and pepper.

Increase heat to 350° and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Remove pot from oven and cover the cassoulet with half of the bread crumb mixture. Cover and return to oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining bread crumbs and return to oven; bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown—about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let rest for 15 minutes. Then, get ready for…

The Tortillaing

Well, if there is something James Dean taught us, it’s being a rebel sometimes does not pay off. This cassoulet—while very tasty in its own right—does not go well in a tortilla. It should, in fact, not be wrapped in anything. Eat it with knife and fork, and you’ll have a good, albeit traditional2 experience. And sometimes that is just OK.

1 I would imagine James Franco would do something similar.

2 I mean, lack of duck aside.