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From Our Kitchen to Yours: Pork Shank Cassoulet

Dress up this traditional French casserole with Dandelion greens for a rustic twist.

Maverick Watson
Maverick Watson
recipe-pork-shank-cassoulet

Pork Shank Cassoulet with Lamb Sausage and Flageolet Beans 

Cassoulet is a traditional French casserole that typically includes pork, duck, sausage, and white beans and is named for the style of cooking dish — essentially a casserole pan.  

The styles and proteins can vary, but typically they consist of aromatic vegetables, a hearty ragout sauce, multiple proteins, and the aforementioned beans. In our case, we are going to be using confit of Pork Shank, lamb or duck sausage, and heirloom Flageolet beans.  

pork confit

This dish requires a bit of thinking ahead, but is one of the most satisfying, delicious, and rustic French dishes. It can be dressed up or down depending on your tastes or how it is served. 

Components

  • Confit Pork shank 
  • Lamb/duck sausage 
  • Flageolet beans or white beans 
  • Tomato ragout 
  • Sourdough breadcrumbs 
  • Chicken stock 
pork confit

Confit of Pork Shank

Pork shank are an often-overlooked cut of meat, located below the shoulder, and great for confit. With its varied connective tissue and meat, it lends a great texture and flavor.  

Confit is a technique of slow cooking meat in its own fat, which is a traditional way of preserving food meat without refrigeration. It is tender, falls off the bone, full of flavor, and is a great component to make in advance.  

Ingredients 

  • 2 lb. Pork Shank 
  • 6 Tbsp. Kosher Salt 
  • 4 Sprigs Thyme 
  • 1 bulb garlic, sliced in half widthwise 
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns 
  • 1 tsp. white peppercorns 
  • 1 tsp. juniper berries 
  • 4 cups lard, duck fat or olive oil 

Season the shanks all over with salt. Allow to cure overnight, uncovered, on a wire rack.  

The next day, preheat the oven to 250°F and place the aromatics in a large Dutch oven or crock pot. On the stove, heat it on low with the lard or fat until it renders and add the shanks. 

Once the shanks begin to brown, cover the pot and place it in the oven. You want the fat to cover the meat entirely. Bake until the meat is tender, can be easily pulled off the bone, and the bones are visible. (Roughly 8 hours.)  

This may also be achieved in a slow cooker or in a pressure cooker. 

Remove the garlic from the oil and reserve. Allow the Dutch oven to return to room temperature and the fat to solidify. Once the shanks are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and skin from bones, keeping the skin as intact as possible.  

Store in an airtight container until ready to use. You may also resubmerge the meat in the fat/lard and it can be stored for up to 3 months.  

Flageolet Beans

Flageolet Beans 

If working with dried beans (which I recommend), rinse them, and soak overnight. After soaking the beans, place in a large pot and combine with:  

  • 2 whole carrots 
  • 1 whole clove garlic, halved 
  • 4 sprigs thyme 
  • 1 large onion, halved and punctured with 2 cloves 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil 

Add enough water to cover the beans plus 2 inches. 

Partially cover the pot and simmer until the beans are cooked to a tender but not mushy consistency, so about 1.5-2 hours.  

Remove from heat, remove the aromatics and discard. Set beans aside, as they can be made in advance. They may also be cooked in a pressure cooker for convenience. (Roughly 45 minutes, depending on the pressure cooker.) 

Tomato Ragout

Tomato Ragout 

Typically, ragout is a hearty sauce made from pork, tomatoes, and vegetables, but since there will be no shortage of meat in this cassoulet, I decided to opt for a veggie-based sauce prior to integrating the rest of the dish.  

For this portion, you will construct a Mirepoix, which is a mix of carrots, onions, and celery, usually finely diced, and used as the seasoning base. You will slow simmer this with chicken stock, tomatoes, and aromatics, prior to mixing with the beans.  

Ragout Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt + more to taste 
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced 
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced 
  • 2 stalks celery, diced 
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and diced 
  • ½ Tbsp. tomato paste 
  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 4 sprigs thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • ½ cup red wine 
  • 6 cups chicken stock 
  • Ground pepper to taste 

In a heavy bottom saucepan or pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering and add the carrots, onion, and celery. Simmer until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  

Add the diced garlic and sauté for roughly 1 minute — being careful not to burn the garlic — and then deglaze the pot with the red wine. Reduce heat and add the tomato paste, continuing to stir. 

Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaf.  

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 1 ½ hours until the sauce has thickened, and the vegetables have incorporated into a hearty sauce. Remove from heat and allow to cool. This can also be made in advance. 

Once cooled, using a slotted spoon, remove the beans from their cooking liquid and add to the ragout. Allow to cool and refrigerate for up to 2 days before preparing the Cassoulet. 

Duck or Lamb Sausage

Duck or Lamb Sausage 

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of duck fat. Fry the pork skin from the confit shanks in the oil until golden brown and crunchy.  

Remove from the oil and drain. Set aside.  

Once cool, chop into crumbs. 

Pierce the sausages all over with a fork and sauté until browned and cooked through.  

Transfer to a plate, let cool, and cut into 2” slices. Keep the oil hot in the pot for the breadcrumbs. 

sourdough breadcrumbs

Sourdough Breadcrumbs 

This might be a little extra, but I like to save to heels of my sourdough bread loaves to use for croutons and making breadcrumbs.  

Take the collected heels, cut into cubes, and bake on a sheet pan at 300°F for about 20 minutes, until dry and crunchy. Allow to cool and pulse in a food processor until they are breadcrumbs. Store in the freezer if not for immediate use.  

For this recipe, take those breadcrumbs or store-bought crumbs and add to the left-over duck fat from cooking the sausage and cook, stirring often until they are golden brown and beginning to crisp. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl and add chopped parsley. 

assembling pork shank Cassoulet

Assemble the Cassoulet 

This may be done up to a day in advance or right before baking.  

  1. Rub about a tablespoon of duck fat on the inside of a cast iron Dutch oven or casserole pan.  
  2. Ladle a layer of ragout and beans.  
  3. Add a layer of the sausage and pork shank meat.  
  4. Add another layer of ragout and beans.  
  5. Top with the final amount of sausage and meat.  

There should be enough liquid to barely cover the beans, so if necessary, add some of the bean cooking liquid.  

finished pork shank cassoulet

Top the cassoulet with 1/3 of the breadcrumb/parsley mixture.  

Bake uncovered at 375°F for 25-30 minutes until the breadcrumbs create a golden crust.  

Break the crust with a spoon and gently press to absorb some of the liquid and bake again for 30 minutes, repeating. If the cassoulet feels dry, add a little bit of the reserved bean liquid to moisten. Top with the remaining breadcrumbs and bake until golden brown. 

Remove the cassoulet from the oven, top with the chopped pork skin, and let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving. 

Serve with a Dandelion greens salad, tossed with salt, olive oil, and lemon. Enjoy! 

pork shank cassoulet kitchen

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