Haitian-style cassoulet, a true comfort food
This cassoulet had been simmering in my mind for weeks before I finally decided to share it with you. Truth is, I am not sure it was a popular casserole in my household. We didn’t eat it that often at home. Yet, it is this very same dish I shared as my first publication in Chef’s Corner Magazine last January. This must only mean one thing. I treasure scrumptious memories of it.
I think I accidentally discovered this casserole when I was 10 or 12 at a great aunt’s.
We had stopped by on a Saturday. A pot was simmering on the stove. As is customary in some big Haitian families, she had immediately invited to partake in the feast that was to follow. That invitation had left me confused. I couldn’t understand why our aunt had extended it. After all, she had invited us to eat a bowl of sòs pwa. There was nothing special to that. We ate bean sauce on a daily basis. Whether they were red, black or white beans, it didn’t make any difference. Or so I thought.
Incredulous, I watched as they served us that bean concoction alongside white rice without any of the usual side dishes. I couldn’t help but wonder whether everyone had gone mad or not. How could they expect to feed an entire table with just rice and beans? I was shocked.
I distractedly listened as an uncle explained we were not about to eat just another bowl of sòs pwa. According to him, I absolutely had to give it a chance. I struggled to believe there could be anything special to that casserole, especially since I already knew we added lardons to our regular bean sauce. What could this white bean puree have that justified its presence as a standalone dish? I was quickly going to answer my own question.
That day, I discovered joy in a bowl of white sòs pwa … oops, I mean in a cassoulet.
I partook in a rich and copious meal. What I had called a simple bowl of “sòs pwa” was actually a true casserole. It was packed with smoked pork chunks, salt-cured meats and sausages that quickly filled my stomach. I even forgot all about the traditional side dishes I was so used to. This is one cassoulet evening I never forgot. That can only mean one thing. My aunt’s had left a great impression.
Please note that the recipe I am sharing with you today is not hers. It is one I put together after gathering instructions here and there. But, if this is your first time eating our Haitian cassoulet, I promise you, you’re in for an unforgettable feast.
For the beans
- 2 cups of white beans
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
For the pork feet
- 2 salt cured pig feet sliced
- 2 bitter oranges
- 1 bunch of thyme
- Whole peppercorn
For the cassoulet
- 200 g lardons ti sale
- 13.5 oz smoked sausage
- Fresh thyme
- 1 piment bouc
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 medium onion
- ½ bell pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tomato
- Splash of red wine
- Cooked pork feet
- Bouillon from the cooked pork feet
- Cooked white beans
- Pepper to taste
For the beans
Soak the beans in water at room temperature for about 10 hours (overnight)
Drain and rinse the beans. Discard the water and set aside.
Add the beans to a pressure cooker, cover with water with 2 garlic cloves and 1 bay leaf
Cook the beans halfway (about 15 minutes). Don’t fully cook them so as to avoid them turning into a puree in the cassoulet.
For the pig feet
Soak the pig feet in water for at least 2 hours
Drain and rinse the salted pig feet with water
Transfer them to a pressure cooker
Cover with water
Add some thyme sprigs, the bitter orange juice and some peppercorn
Cover and cook until fork tender (about 30 to 45 minutes)
Drain. Preserve the cooking water, you will use it as broth for the cassoulet.
For the cassoulet
Chop the tomato, garlic, onions and bell pepper. Set aside
Slice the smoked sausage. Set aside.
In a thick bottom pan, cook the lardon (ti sale)
Add the garlic, onions and bell pepper, and cook in the lardon fat until translucent
Add the sausages and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over
Add the diced tomato and deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine
Incorporate the pig feet. Stir well to combine.
Cover with the water that cooked the pig feet
Add the bay leaves and whole piment bouc
Once the liquid starts simmering, add the beans
Season to taste
Let simmer on low for about 45 minutes to an hour until the cassoulet thickens
Serve with white rice
Quick tip: You can cook the cassoulet faster by reducing a small amount of cooked beans into a puree and adding it to the mixture. Your cassoulet will thicken faster