This may look like something you’d scrape up with a trowel, paste on bricks and confidently leave to stand in houseform for a few millenia, but strictly speaking, this isn’t actually cement. It’s cassoulet. A speciality from the Languedoc region of France, famed in Toulouse, but born just down the road in Castelnaudary. Cassoulet consists of beans, sausage, goose, sometimes duck or pork, also tripe. It’s a bit of a mishmashmosh and sits rather rotundly in the hearty ‘think-I-need-a-sleep-now’ category of foodstuffs. It takes shedloadsa time to cook and needs freezing cold weather to really enjoy. While it isn’t really used to fashion cement bricks, wolf that pot down and you’ll feel like you’ve eaten brick. A big one.
I have eaten a lot of cassoulet, but much of it is from supermarket and market tins and jars – which are cheap and very good, but this goose-stuffed cassoulet is from Le Colombier – "the home of cassoulet" – It’s served in a careful-don’t-burn-yourself terracotta pot and according to the restaurant website consists of,
"beans from Lauragais… mixed deliciously with conserve of goose, Toulouse’s sausage, shin of pork, sausage with skin, without forgeting pork skin."
Beyond the weight, this is most satisfying when eaten slowly – don’t worry, the pot will keep things warm – with a glass of something red and a comfortable chair. Le Colombier is efficient, a little impersonal and not all that attractive, but the main event is a solid hit. There’s more on this gargantuan dish at Food and Wine, BBC Food, New York Times, EGullet and a very good wee piece in Wine Spectator including a recipe. Just look at the ingredients list….
2 pounds dried white beans, picked over, washed and drained
1 small bunch parsley
5 sprigs thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed, plus 5 cloves garlic, minced
10 peppercorns, plus freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves, plus 2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1/2 pound ventrÃ¨che (or pancetta), quartered
1/2 cup duck fat, melted (or grape seed or canola oil)
6 fresh duck legs (or confit of 6 duck legs)
2 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds boned lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds garlicky pork sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 large cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained
2 to 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
Dunno about you, but I’m ripe for a snooze just doing the reading… Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for this dinner. Bon Appetit editors Hugh Garvey and Andrew Knowlton coughed up the sobs for this while they were in town last month.