Thursday, March 19, 2009

The secrets of cassoulet.

A friend tipped me off to a story about cassoulet, the great southwestern French dish, in Slate, by Katherine Lanpher. The piece is pretty well informed, except when it says that a cassoulet should be topped with a bread-crumb crust: This is a no-no for all authentic cassoulets except possibly the version from Carcassonne (one of three cassoulet cities, together with Castelnaudary and Toulouse.)

I know about these things because I am the only American chevalier (knight) in the Great Brotherhood of the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary. The story of how I joined the brotherhood is told in an article in Saveur magazine that Lanpher links to right at the end of her piece, which I wrote several years ago, entitled "Searching for the Secrets of Cassoulet." I did not realize that it was available online until I read Lanpher's article, but it is well worth checking out if for no other reason than that it provides the authentic, Brotherhood-approved recipe for the cassoulet of Castelnaudary (the second of the two recipes provided, which is also at this link.)

With thanks to JML for alerting me to the Slate article.

Photo: Jean-Luc Barde for Saveur.


Richard Parker said...

I thought your blog was about world affairs and very ancient history, so I read it regularly.

Now I discover you're into food porn, and discussing the world's greatest dish

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So why not eat beans at every meal?

I once went to restaurant in Devon (England) where a pork roast was dripping fat onto a pot of beans and old poultry. slowly, on an open fire. The combination was magical

Thanks for reviving an old memory that I can still taste.

Michael Balter said...

Anatole France wrote about a restaurant in Paris where, he claimed, a cassoulet had been kept bubbling in a pot for 20 years, ingredients continually added.

Anne Gilbert said...

Oooh! Oooh! I started drooling when I read that article you wrote. And the cassoulet recipe sounds scrumptious! I'm going to have to try it some time, because I know somebody who will probably love it. In the meanwhile, a friend of mine is waiting till the chocolate gets cold, so he can make truffles out of this thick chocolate stuff with chili in it. It sounds weird, until you've actually tasted it. I'm drooling, just writing about it.
Anne G

Dennis Sandgathe said...


Harold and I ate at Chez Emile on our way home. It was awesome! Trying to decide still if it was better than the Carcasonne casoulet or not.

Michael Balter said...

Hello Dennis, I'm glad to see there's still life in this blog thread (and this blog) still. Chez Emile is very good, but when you and Harold go on the Cassoulet Trail I will give you some tips about places around Castelnaudary, the mother lode of cassoulet.