Hoppin' John Cassoulet 15.000

Matt McClain for The Washington Post

Immigrant's Table Dec 28, 2011

Chef Paul Pelt has dubbed this a cassoulet because he has "kind of folded two recipes into one," using black-eyed peas and several cuts of meat. He serves it at the Tabard Inn, but this recipe has been adapted for home cooks. One of the meats he uses is (fresh) pork shank, which is available at Eastern Market. At his suggestion, we've substituted boneless pork shoulder, which is widely available. Confit duck legs are available at Eastern Market, as well as at Wegmans, Balducci's and some Giant stores and Brookville Markets.

The chef also uses a rich stock for its intensified flavor. If you're making your own, start with just-roasted chicken and beef or veal bones. But because this dish is so flavorful, you can use store-bought, no-salt-added broth.

This is project cooking: Parts of the dish (beans, their flavor components, the ham hock stew) are best prepared separately, then combined.

Make Ahead: The beans need to be soaked for about 4 hours. They can be cooked, drained, added to their flavor components and refrigerated for up to 2 days. The stew can be made up to 2 days in advance; after the meat has been removed, cooled and shredded, refrigerate the cooking liquid for several hours or overnight so the fat congeals. Skim off and discard the fat. The cassoulet can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Servings: 15 - 20
  • For the black-eyed peas
  • 3 pounds dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large onion, cut into medium dice (4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken or beef stock or store-bought, no-salt-added chicken or beef broth
  • 1 pound fresh rope sausage, preferably pork
  • About 1 pound confit duck legs
  • For the ham hock stew
  • 8 smoked ham hocks (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks (see headnote)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 5 cups dry white wine
  • 9 cups homemade veal or beef stock or store-bought, no-salt-added beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For assembly
  • Kosher salt (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or rendered duck fat
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or dried plain bread crumbs


For the black-eyed peas: Place them in 1 or 2 large bowls, picking through them to discard any foreign matter. Cover with cool water by 2 or 3 inches. Soak for about 4 hours, then drain and transfer to a large stock pot.

Cover with cool water by at least 2 inches. Stir in the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring and skimming occasionally, until the black-eyed peas are just shy of tender.

Meanwhile, place the bacon cubes in a single layer in a large pot over medium heat. As soon as they start to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to render some of their fat and create a crisped, browned exterior.

Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, cumin, salt, pepper and onion; increase the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

Drain the black-eyed peas, discarding any that remained afloat on the surface, then add them to the bacon-onion mixture and stir to combine. Add the stock or broth, stirring with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the black-eyed peas are tender. Remove from the heat.

Combine the sausage and 1/4 cup of water in a large skillet over medium heat; once the water has evaporated, turn the sausage over and cook until it is browned, then turn over and cook until it has browned on the second side, about 25 minutes total. (The sausage might be a bit pink in the center; that is okay.) Transfer to a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices; stir into the peas mixture.

Add the confit duck legs skin side down to the same skillet you used to cook the sausage. Cook over medium heat until their skin has crisped and some fat has rendered. Transfer to a cutting board; when cool enough to handle, shred the skin and meat.

At this point, the black-eyed pea mixture and the sausage-confit duck mixture can be cooled and refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 2 days.

For the ham hock stew: Combine the ham hocks, pork shoulder, tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, wine and stock or broth in a large, deep pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the salt and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the ham hocks are falling away from the bone and the pork shoulder is tender.

Transfer the meat to a bowl to cool. Strain the cooking liquid into a large, heatproof container, discarding the bay leaves; you’ll have about 2 1/2 to 3 quarts. Refrigerate for several hours or until the fat has congealed on the surface. Discard the fat.

When the meat is cool enough to handle (you may refrigerate it while the cooking liquid cools), discard the bones and cut and/or shred the meat into bite-size pieces. If desired, cut some of the ham hock fat into bite-size pieces. Add the meat to the defatted cooking liquid.

At this point, the stew can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

For assembly: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have at hand 1 or 2 large, deep casserole dishes or several smaller baking dishes.

Combine the black-eyed pea mixture, the sausage-duck mixture and the stew in one large stock pot over medium heat. Stir to combine; cook for about 15 minutes, until the mixture has warmed through and starts to bubble. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Meanwhile, melt the butter or duck fat in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat; cook for a few minutes, so the crumbs become golden brown. Remove from the heat.

Use a spoon to transfer the cassoulet mixture to the baking dish(es), being careful to include just enough liquid to keep the cassoulet moist but not enough to cover the black-eyed peas. You will probably have several cups of broth left over; it can be reserved for another use. Scatter the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Roast for about 7 minutes, so the cassoulet is slightly bubbling and the topping is browned.

Serve hot.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Pelt, chef at the Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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