It’s been raining here in Reston the last few days. And it’s cold. So, so, cold. But every time I walk into the kitchen smelling the day’s cassoulet slow cooking, my insides warm up.
Cassoulet is the ultimate comfort food in France (it still can’t beat mac and cheese, in my opinion). That is why I put it on our winter menu.
Cassoulet is one of those dishes people hear about, but don’t always understand what is so special about it. It is to France what Paella is to Spain, Pasta is to Italy, and Chili is to the U.S. It is peasant food that every region in a country makes… with their own twist. That twist being whatever food the peasants could afford or had access to.
For the peasants of France back in the Middle Ages, that was dried beans, preserved duck, and preserved pork.
I love cassoulet because, well, what’s not to love? More specifically, I love it because the white beans, which cook down almost to a creamy mashed potato consistency, absorb all the meat flavors. It is a rich, slow-cooked dish usually prepared in an earthenware casserole pot. There are dozens of recipes for it. The thing they have in common is the creamy beans and rich, fatty meat.
Comfort food at its finest.
It pairs beautifully with red wine as well. Since it is a dense dish, it pairs best with savory medium-bodied red wines that have ample tannin (to break down proteins) and crisp acidity (to cut through the carbohydrates and fat). Which one? Just ask Andy when you come in; he will set you up with the right wine for your taste.
The Academie du Cassoulet
One more thing: cassoulet HAS ITS OWN ACADEMY! That’s how seriously the French take preserving the tradition of this national dish.
For fun, I thought I’d share the academy’s goals. I love it!
The Objectives of the Universal Cassoulet Academy
The cassoulet, all the ingredients involved in its composition, the culture and heritage associated with it.
Within it, men and women for whom know-how, quality and originality rhyme with the love of living well, thinking and acting well and eating correctly.
The culinary creativity, the traditions, the language, the human values, the cordiality which are the prerogative and the rule of the inhabitants of the South of France.
ORGANIZE and PARTICIPATE
To events of a gastronomic, cultural, artistic, touristic and media nature, with the sole purpose of promoting the development of His Majesty Cassoulet throughout the world and to make known the Master Cassoulet Chefs and winegrowers of the region.