The classics always tend to stick around, and for good reason. People across the country still make the journey to Graceland to visit the home of a man who hasn’t recorded a song in almost 50 years. “Citizen Kane” still ranks in the top three of most movie critics’ list of greatest of all time, even though it was made before the invention of color film. To this day, the people of France, and anyone with an appreciation for their cuisine, are still cooking cassoulet.
You might be wondering: What is cassoulet? In layman’s terms, it’s a rich stew made of white beans, duck confit and sausage. It’s hearty, it’s delicious and it’s very decadent. The origins of cassoulet are not easy to trace, but one theory links it back to medieval times, when stewed meat and beans were staples of a king’s diet. Some trace it back to 13th-century Arabic cooks, who introduced the white bean to France.
No matter when or where it came from, one thing is for certain — it takes a long time to prepare. From soaking the beans overnight to slowly cooking duck legs in their own fat and braising all of the ingredients for hours, it becomes a two-day dish to prepare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth the wait, but with the help of the Instant Pot and a few shortcuts, the entire dish can be prepared in an hour from start to finish.
One way to save time is to take a trip to your butcher shop and ask them for prepared confit duck legs. Another trick is using the Instant Pot to soak the beans. Rather than soaking overnight, you can recreate the same effect by bringing them up to pressure and letting them sit in the hot liquid for 15 minutes. After that, all that’s left is adding the remaining ingredients to the Instant Pot and letting the machine do the rest of the work.
I fell in love with this dish 10 years ago when I made it for the first time in culinary school, but because of the time and labor involved I’ve only made it a handful of times. Now when I want this classic I don’t have to hope it’s on the menu of a local bistro. I can make it myself in no time.
Instant Pot Cassoulet
1 pound dried cannellini beans
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 duck confit legs, meat pulled away from bones and shredded
8 ounces fully cooked garlic chicken sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 cups chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and stem discarded
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Place beans in the bowl of the Instant Pot and add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Seal pressure cooker lid and set to cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Once the pressure is reached, immediately turn off the pot and let the beans soak for 15 minutes. Do not cook the beans on high pressure — this comes later. After the beans have soaked, drain and set aside.
2. Turn the Instant Pot on high sauté. Add bacon and cook until fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.
3. Add onions and cook an additional 2 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add tomato paste, stirring to coat the bacon and onions, and cook for 2 minutes, until slightly browned.
5. Add red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
6. Add shredded duck meat, chicken sausage, chicken stock, thyme and reserved beans. Season with salt. Seal pressure cooker lid and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, then use the quick release method.
7. While the cassoulet is cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add panko, tossing to coat with butter. Cook until panko is golden brown and toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley.
8. Spoon cassoulet into serving bowls and garnish with generous heap of parsley panko.