I cannot afford regularly to buy (or to make) confit of duck, an essential ingredient of cassoulet; but I am happy enough in the meantime with pork and bean stews. The other day, I made one with some leftover loin of pork.
When you are on holiday, and going out in the afternoon, you do not want to spend the outing worrying about whether you are going to get back in time to start the dinner. So I put the 250 g dried beans (for a stew for four people -- I had soaked them overnight) into a heavy casserole, covered them with cold water coming about 3 cm above the surface, threw in a couple of garlic cloves along with a halved onion studded with four cloves, covered the dish, and put it in a gas mark S/130 C oven. I left it there for the three hours we were out. A miracle: the beans were perfectly cooked when we got back.
I drained the beans, kept the garlic (slipping the flesh from the casings) but discarded the onion and cloves, and reduced the cooking liquid until it was thick and sludgy. I added a couple of ladlefuls of chicken stock to the liquid, and brought the pan back to a simmer.
Meanwhile, to give the dish some extra flavour, I fried -- in the casserole -- a couple of tbsp of smoked lardons in some olive oil with a clove of chopped garlic. I put back with them the beans and garlic flesh, along with four slices of pork chopped into fork-sized pieces. I added salt. I poured over the stock and bean liquid, and covered the stew with breadcrumbs. (The stew should be moist but not runny.)
I baked the stew, uncovered, in a gas mark 5/190 C oven for 30 minutes. The stew was bubbling and thickened, and the breadcrumbs formed a golden crust.
This stew is particularly good with slices of belly pork. The pork goes with the beans for the second cooking, which you do slowly, at about gas mark 1/140 C, for one and a half to two hours.