Voulez-vous Cassoulet avec Moi, ce mois?
True or False?
Cassoulet: a noun describing an iconic bean and meat casserole from Southwest France. A French Obsession.
Cassoulet: a verb describing the act of making, eating, talking about and partying with beans, meat and friends. Rhymes with sashay.
He, she and they cassoulet.
As of this month, this year, I am working hard to turn my signature winter dish into a verb. So, come on everyone. Come cassoulet with me!
Making and sharing cassoulet or cassouleting is a good part of my culinary shtick. I’ve cassouleted in kitchens from Camont to the tropical shores of New Zealand, from apartment kitchen’s mini-electric ovens to generous farm woodstoves. I cassouleted with white, red, and brown beans from France, Mexico, China, and Lousiana as well as using local pork, duck, lamb and game. I’ve cassouleted in pots from the Not Freres Authentic Terracotta Cassoles to vast stainless steel hotel pans; in colorful Le Creusets and battered old dutch ovens. I even lug my own cassoles with me on countless airplanes, always leaving behind the souvenir for my hosts to have ready the next time I cassoulet into town. Cassoulet is my recipe to show off our good charcuterie: saucisse de Toulouse, ventreche, and confit de canard.
Cassoulet is a call to arms, my friends. Five years ago I created the first Camp Cassoulet at Camont, inviting fellow food bloggers like David (The Sweet Life) Lebovitz, Jennifer (Chez Loulou) Greco and Lucy (Kitchen Notebooks) Vanel to join me and my Gascon neighbors for a winter kickoff weekend. It has become an annual event and this year will be cassouleting Dec 1 & 2 here at Camont.
Viens, cassoulet avec moi, mes amis!
Cassoulet or not to Cassoulet… there is no question.
All for one and Cassoulet all !
I think you get the picture.
Cassoulet. In 2008, I declared it the #1 French recipe you should know how to make: #1 Cassoulet. Today, I declare it your winter companion and new best friend. Cassoulet with me this winter and your wrinkles will disappear, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll have more friends. Well, two out of three anyway.
Writing about or teaching cassoulet is a great opportunity for me to rant about several culinary gaffs, myths and intentions. When gently guiding Michael Ruhlman, a man of many ruhls and ratios, to discover a more authentic cassoulet (minus the bread crumbs!) , he teased me for being only “slightly opinionated” . Ok, I am now going to get on my High Gascon Horse and shout, “Quit mucking about with cassoulet!” (Just read the 139 comments following Mark Bittman’s post earlier this year and you’ll get a good idea of what I am talking about.) Cassoulet is not a vegetarian dish and it’s not quick and easy. Cassoulet is wonderfully complex in history, flavor and satisfaction but not complicated to make. Complex not complicated. There’s the difference. It is a people’s dish, the sum of the individual ingredients transforming into a magic cauldron of flavor and family.
Cassoulet allows me to talk about history, culinary traditions, seed to sausage farming, kitchen lore, myths and magic, and promote the convivial cassoulet tables, all at once. To Cassoulet is the verb form of sitting around a generous table to talk story with good wine and friends late into a winter night. So if you like beans, and you eat meat, and you enjoy cooking – then come along this winter to cassoulet with me. If you don’t. No problem. Just please be quiet while we cassoulet.
This is your chance. Tell me your Cassoulet stories here- http://www.facebook.com/FromGascony and I’ll tell you mine.
To get you started, here’s an extract from our first From Gascony publication “Camp Cassoulet- Introduction to a French Obsession”. It will be available just in time for Christmas.
“Southwest France was stone cold those first winter months of 1988 sailing along the Canal du Midi on the Julia Hoyt, my new floating home. Still adjusting to barge life as captain and cook I learned my way around the French shopping system othe hard way- producer’s markets (once a week were a game of which day which port. Damn! missed the market at Sete by a day. Bicycle rides to the hypermarket meant wobbly returns balancing cases of beer along the towpaths. Little refrigeration on board and a finite amount of bottled gas for cooking meant I learned to cook quickly, simplify complicated recipes and avoid my galley oven like the gas hog it was. The Julia Hoyt meandered around a bend on an early spring snowstorm in Castelnaudary after a long climb up the multi-locked steps onto the Lauragais plain where I discovered a small town of take-out shops whose foggy windows were filled with golden brown clay vessels full of steaming hot cassoulets. French heaven.”
Voulez-vous cassoulet avec moi, ce mois?