Is this a cassoulet or just a bean dish?
To be honest, I really don't care too much but I'd love to hear your opinion. It lacks that variety of meats that you will find in cassoulet and there's also the cassoulet Toulousain that contains lamb like my dish, but then again there's no tomato in there. It is one of those dishes that has as many variations as there are cooks. One thing is sure; if you're not into patience, this will not be your dish; total cooking time is 4 hours... but in fact, the recipe isn't all that difficult.
You need white beans, whatever kind. I used these large ones. I made my dish for 2-3 persons with 3 fistfuls of dried beans, 500 grams of lamb shoulder, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a bouquet containing thyme, lovage, sage and parsley, 1 can of peeled tomatoes (not 2 like in the picture), 1 small can of tomato purée. (picture #1)
1. It is very important to soak the beans at least 24 hours in cold water. That's what I did but I still had just a few chewy ones in my completed dish, which is a sign that the beans weren't soaked enough! When soaking the volume of beans will double.
2. Cooking the beans. Sweat a chopped onion until translucent in butter or duck fat. Don't use oil, it will float on top of the dish when done!! Add tomato purée and let it fry for a few minutes to eliminate the harsh taste. Add the peeled tomatoes, the bouquet of herbs, add the soaked beans, add fresh water until the beans are covered (picture #2). Absolutely NO salt at all, it will make the beans chewy!!! Put on the stove on low fire for 2 hours. The beans will be sort of "al dente" in this stage. After that cooking time, crush the peeled raw garlic with a bit of salt into a smooth purée and add to the beans (picture #3). Season with s&p.
3. Sear the meat on medium high fire. Season well. Do NOT use a non-stick pan. When the meat is done, get rid of the fat (picture #5), put the pan back on the stove and deglaze with a bit of water. Stir to loosen all the goodies from the bottom of the pan. Add to the beans.
4. Get an oven dish and fill with the beans (picture #4). Add the seared meat half in, half out (picture #6). Put in an oven @180°C/350°F for another 2 hours. It's a good idea to check it a few times... and eventually adjust the temperature.
You will now have sort of a thin dark skin on top of the dish that is nothing else than caramelized tomato and other stuff (picture #7).
Bon appétit! So, what's your opinion, is this bean dish?