Primal Cassoulet

Primal CassouletCassoulet is often thought of as a massive undertaking that requires days to cook. It’s also often assumed that cassoulet can’t be made without beans. In this Primal version, neither is true. In a few hours you’ll have one of the meatiest meals imaginable. Incredibly rich and hearty with layers of different flavors, this is a meal not to be missed.

Cassoulet is made with all kinds of meat and can get a little pricey, depending on what you choose. This recipe is mid-range, as it blends pork shoulder and sausage, duck, and bacon. You can go all out and use more duck or even duck confit. You can scale back and add more pork shoulder and no duck at all. Or, you can use lamb if you want.

At this point, if you’re starting to feel like cassoulet is a casual one-pot meal that’s improvised depending on what’s on hand, then that’s good. This is not fancy French food, it’s French comfort food, so there’s no reason to be intimidated…even after you glance below and see how many ingredients and steps are involved.

Don’t sweat it. This is an easy version of cassoulet. All the recipe really involves is buying a bunch of meat and vegetables, chopping them up, browning everything and then simmering for several hours. This is cassoulet for people who don’t have time to spend three days cooking, but still want a big flavor pay-off at the end.

The beans usually found in cassoulet are replaced here with rutabaga, a root vegetable with a sweet, earthy flavor and creamy texture that is surprisingly close to beans. And oh, yeah, about that traditional bread crumb topping….you don’t really need that either. Try finely chopped oven-roasted cauliflower instead to give your cassoulet a toasted, buttery finish.

Servings: Six to eight

Time in the Kitchen: One hour of active cooking time, plus two hours of simmering



  • 2 tablespoons butter (30 ml)
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes (450 g) (25 mm)
  • 1 pound of duck legs or breasts (breast works much better for recipe, unless you want to splurge and buy duck confit) (450 g)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (30 ml)
  • 1 pound pork sausage (sweet Italian works well) cut into 1/2 inch slices (450 g) (12 mm)
  • 1/2 pound pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces (230 g)
  • 2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes, broken up with your hands (300 g)
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken stock (500 to 750 ml)
  • 2 rutabagas, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (12 mm)
  • 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs of parsley and 4 sprigs of thyme tied together with twine
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (60 ml)
  • Pinch of sea salt


Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot (five quart or more) over med heat.

Add the pork and brown on each side, about six minutes total. Remove the pork from the pot.

Add the duck and brown, about eight minutes. Remove from pot.

Browned Meat

When it cools, pull the meat off the bones (if using legs) and shred. If using the breast, simply slice the meat into chunks. The skin can be discarded or left on. It will add flavor to the dish, but also a lot of fat.

Turn the heat up to medium-high under the pot. Add the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and fennel. Cook until lightly browned, about ten minutes.

Add the tomato paste and mix well.

Step 1

Add the sausage and pancetta/bacon to the pot. Cook five minutes until sausage is browned. Add pork and duck back to the pot.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Add two cups of stock, the rutabaga, and the bundle of herbs and bring to a boil. Push the rutabaga and meat down with a spoon so they’re mostly under the liquid.

Simmering Cassoulet

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.

While the cassoulet is simmering, make the cauliflower topping. Preheat the oven to 400 °F (205 °C). Cut out the inner core of the cauliflower and slice the cauliflower thinly. Toss with olive oil. Lay the cauliflower in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake (don’t stir it!) until really brown and crispy around edges, about forty-five minutes.

Take out and set aside. Chop up finely and mix with the parsley and a pinch of sea salt.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 °F (176 °C)

When the cassoulet is done simmering on the stove, remove the bundle of herbs. If you prefer a brothy cassoulet (rather than one with no broth remaining) then add the remaining cup of broth right now.

Put the pot in the oven and bake, uncovered, for roughly one hour and fifteen minutes. There is no need to stir it.

Sprinkle the cauliflower on top of the cassoulet. Place under the broiler for a few minutes to warm the cauliflower and brown the top of the cassoulet.

Serve immediately or over the next few days – it gets even better with time.


About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!