- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the meat, and cook, turning as needed, until the meat is deeply browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, leeks or onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini or cabbage; and sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, their liquid, the reserved meat, and the herbs and bring to a boil. Add the beans; bring to a boil again, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but continuously. Cook for about 20 minutes, adding the liquid when the mixture gets thick and the vegetables are melting away.
- Fish out the meat and remove the bones and skin as needed. Chop into chunks and return to the pot along with the cayenne. Cook another minute or two to warm through, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.
Slow-Cooked Cassoulet. Start with dried beans. After browning the meat in Step 1, leave it in the pan and add 1/2 pound dry white beans (they’ll cook faster if you soak them first) and enough water or stock to just cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Meanwhile, in a separate pan with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cook the vegetables as directed in Step 2. Add them to the pot of beans along with the tomatoes and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle bubble and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, adding more liquid as necessary to keep them moist. This will take anywhere from another 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the age of your dried beans.