Fighting Food – Cassoulet

FRENCH FRIDAYS

Carcassonne Cassoulet Southwest France proclaims itself as the family home of cassoulet, even if the towns bicker over who thought of it first like relatives at Christmas.

Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudray. Each want the credit for this hearty dish, only agreeing on one thing: that the recipe sprang from fighting off the English.

(For years rosbif monarchs ruled Bordeaux; King John even established St Émilion’s wine trade)

Before kissing their husbands goodbye, wives delved deep into their larders and threw every good thing they had into one single pot.

Toulouse Sausage, confit of duck, white beans, goose fat, pork slices. Occasionally lamb, of course wine.

It’s a shame, according to the legend, that cassoulet takes so long to cook. Most traditional recipes quote between 12 and 14 hours. You rather imagine that the impatient English army would have reheated their pot noodle and attacked by then.


Today, you can easily buy cassoulet pre-prepared in glass jars. Don’t be put off by the beige view of squashed animal parts and stewing beans – it still tastes delicious and reheats easily on the stove. Be warned though, consuming cassoulet can fill you with an overwhelming urge to – well, fall asleep on the sofa rather than dash off and fight anyone.

Top Photo courtesy of Jonathan Caves.

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3 Responses to Fighting Food – Cassoulet

  1. mina August 22, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    What a great blog – so glad I found it today. This dish sounds kind of gross and unbelievably delicious at the same time.

  2. Mikeachim August 25, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Nice work, doc.

    There's something about meaty bits floating in a glass jar that is so very deeply wrong. Or maybe I just watched too many X Files episodes as a bairn.

    I had no idea the traditional variety was cooked for half a day's solid heating. It must be tenderer than tender – a gnat sneezes a mile away and the whole lot dissolves into soup, that kind of tender.

    Out of interest, how much are those jars of cassoulet selling for?

  3. Abi King August 25, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    @mina – Thanks! Food presentation in southwest France definitely focuses on the final result on the plate. Until then – anything goes. The markets hang fluffy hares on hooks, stack skinned rabbits on the counters and sell chickens with their heads still attached.
    Those final results are usually fantastic, though!

    @mike
    Those jars always remind me of specimens in the pathology labs…but I try to forget that!

    Cassoulet is melt-in-your-mouth tender after all that cooking and the meat slides off the bone with minimal effort.

    Those jars start at around 8 Euros and work their way up (depending on the size and proximity to the central tourist areas..)

    Bon App!

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