Cassoulet is a French dish containing mainly of slow-cooked meat, pork skin, and white beans. This dish got its name from the traditional cooking vessel used to cook it, which is known as the cassole. A cassole is a deep, round, earthenware pot glazed in the interior and along the rim but unglazed on the outside initially used to cook a cassoulet.
What is Cassoulet?
A cassoulet is a comforting country food which traditionally includes white beans, duck or duck confit, pork, sausages, and mutton in its recipe. Yet this dish is mainly constructed based on the availability of ingredients such as pork, ham, tomatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, mutton, partridges, duck, duck confit or Toulouse sausage.
A typical cassoulet takes days to prepare in the old days as it was cooked in the hearth, or a bread baker’s oven using the residual heat. The low heat allows all the flavours and fat from the meat to break down and melt into the beans. The bread crust and the fat will then form a coating on the surface of the dish.
Nowadays, this process can be replicated in the modern kitchen by taking only a few hours. The most authentic Cassoulet in France can still be found on the farm prepared by the farmer’s wife. A cassoulet is satisfying enough. Therefore, it usually doesn’t come with a side dish. It can be eaten with some white bread and a glass of wine along with the meal.
Beans, which serve as the main element of a cassoulet, should be tender and can absorb all the aromas from the rest of the ingredients. White beans are generally used as the ingredient. Sometimes, haricot is used to create a creamier texture in the Cassoulet.
The meat in this dish also plays a vital role as different types of meat gives a different flavour. The variety of meat can range from confit goose to mutton and pork skin. Salted meats are used to season the beans while the bulk could be pork, pork ribs, pork belly or lamb.
The ace of the whole dish is the confit and sausage. Toulouse sausage was commonly used, but it can also be substituted with Polish kielbasa. The sausages should be sliced and placed on top of the dish to allow the fat to mix with the breadcrumbs, giving the dish a crispy crust on top.
Herbs such as thyme, bay and parsley usually are added, together with onion with cloves to bring out its best flavour. Adding breadcrumbs on top of the dish is optional, depending on one’s liking.
History of Cassoulet
The history of cassoulet starts from the era when the white bean from America was first introduced to France after Columbus’ voyage. The queen of France at that time, Catherine de Medici, encouraged the import of white beans and thus it was cultivated widely all across the southwest of France.
The first cassoulet is claimed by Castelnaudary, where the townspeople gathered various ingredients they could find during the Hundred Years War and made a giant stew to feed the soldiers. It was said that the dish was hearty enough to aid the soldiers to fight the war and save their beloved city.
Now, the origins of the dish reside in Southwestern France in the areas of Gascony and Languedoc.
Types of Cassoulet
There are various types of cassoulet all across France, depending on the region and ingredients available.
For example, a basic cassoulet from the town of Castelnaudary adds pork and ham with tomatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, and stock to the white beans; that of Carcassonne also contains mutton and partridges which are available during its season. While in Toulouse the basic cassoulet uses duck or duck confit together with Toulouse sausage.
Where to find cassoulet in Malaysia
Cassoulet can be found in most French restaurants in Malaysia. It is also available at Qureshi restaurant (Kuala Lumpur). The types of cassoulet vary between restaurants according to their preferences.
Log on to foodpandato to order more of your favourite European cuisines.