History of a Dish: Cassoulet

You may know of the hearty French stew, but did you know that the recipe varies by region?

When you think of classic French cooking, cassoulet may come to mind. It’s the regional dish of Southern France — a hearty stew of meat and beans, cooked for hours on low heat inside of a cassole, or clay pot (hence the name, cassoulet).

Originally prepared by peasants using whatever ingredients were available, the specifics vary by region. Castelnaudary-style cassoulet calls for duck confit, pork shoulder, and sausage, while in Carcassonne, a cassoulet typically includes mutton, and in Toulouse, duck confit and sausage, with a crusty, breaded top.

RELATED: History of a Dish: The Beefsteak

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They even vary on bean choice. Southern towns prepare the dish using Tarbais beans, a flat, white bean grown at the foot of the Pyrénées Mountains, and those further north use the pale-green Flageolet bean. Though, all can agree that the best cassoulet is made with fava beans, freshly picked during the spring harvest. And with each area believing that their spin reigns supreme, cassoulets garner much of the same competitive spirit as do American chili cook-offs.

Ready to whip up your own? Check out this pork belly and Tarbais bean cassoulet recipe (below) from Waldy Malouf, Senior Director of Food & Beverage at the Culinary Institute of America. 

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