Cassoulet : Master The Art Of This Traditional French Emblematic Food [Tips Included]
Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck, and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes), and white beans. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the castle, a deep round earthenware pot with slanting sides.
All cassoulets are made up of two parts:
- The meats and the beans.
- While the exact recipe varies from village to village throughout southwestern France, all versions have these two critical components in common.
The preparation of cassoulet takes several days. First, the beans are soaked overnight then simmered in water for several hours until tender. Then piece by piece, each piece of meat is cooked in goose fat until browned then added to the pot with more goose fat. A final layer of bread crumbs is sprinkled on top before baking for several hours until browned and crusty on top.
The cassoulet may be served directly from its cooking vessel. A legend says that when one guest finds a coin in his portion, he will be lucky during the year!
- Cassoulet bean is a white bean often used in the French dish Cassoulet.
- It is also referred to as lingot beans, lingots, lingots Blancs, lingot de Paris, or lingot de la region toulousaine.
- They are usually served with pork products, such as sausage or a duck confit.
- They have an elongated shape similar to a kidney bean, and they are creamy-white.
- The cassoulet beans are made from a white bean native to France and come from the village of Castelnaudary, which is in the Languedoc area of Southern France.
- This area was known for its freshwater supply, perfect for growing this particular bean variety.
What is a white bean cassoulet?
White bean cassoulet is a hearty bean stew made with white beans, garlic, and herbs. This dish is traditionally slow-cooked in an earthenware pot with a tight-fitting lid to bring out all of the flavors. The beans are cooked in a flavorful broth until they become soft and absorb all of the flavors from the other ingredients.
- White bean cassoulet is an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and many other nutrients. It's a perfect addition to any lunch or dinner.
- It can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for more extended storage.
Taste of Cassoulet
The best way to describe it is that it's rich. Cassoulet is a meat-lover's stew made with a mix of meats, including sausages and duck legs, covered in thick gravy.
Because cassoulet has so many different ingredients, the flavor will depend on what particular recipe you're using. For example, a cassoulet made with white beans and pork sausage may taste quite different from one made with cannellini beans and chicken thighs.
Adding vegetables can also alter the flavor of your cassoulet. A traditional French cassoulet typically has garlic, onion, thyme, and bay leaf, but other vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes are sometimes added.
Types of cassoulet
There are three primary types of cassoulet:
- Cassoulet de Castelnaudary: made with mutton from Castelnaudary, pork sausage from Carcassonne and Toulouse sausage
- Cassoulet de Toulouse: made with Toulouse sausage
- Cassoulet de Castres: made with goose or duck confit
There are two distinct types of cassoulet: Toulouse and Carcassonne.
Toulouse-style cassoulet is made with sausages, pork skin, goose, or duck.
Carcassonne-style is made with white beans and lamb or mutton.
The dishes also differ in how they are cooked. For example, Toulouse-style cassoulet is simmered on the stovetop for about two hours, while Carcassonne-style cassoulets are baked for several hours in the oven at a low temperature with a breadcrumb crust on top.
Vegetable cassoulet is a French stew or casserole typically made with meat and beans. In this version, we swap the meat for various seasonal veggies and white beans. I used carrots, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, leeks, and celery root, along with garlic and thyme. The veggies are braised in a rich tomato sauce with the beans until tender.
While cassoulet is traditionally made with duck confit or sausage, we're using white beans as our protein source. White cannellini beans work best for this recipe. They're mild in flavor and absorb the flavors of the vegetables and tomato sauce nicely.
What to eat with cassoulet?
Recipes for cassoulet vary widely depending on the region, but one thing is always true: this dish serves as a meal in and of itself. You don't need much else to go with it, but if you want to put something together, here are some suggestions:
- For a bit more protein, try adding in some sausage (any kind will work) or chicken thighs.
- If you want to serve a salad, go with something simple like a green salad or Caesar salad.
- You can also make some simple roasted vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
- It's also wonderful to serve cassoulet on its own as the main course.
Difference between a Casserole and a Cassoulet
- The main difference between a casserole and a cassoulet is that a casserole is more of a food category than one specific dish. In contrast, cassoulet is the name of a particular dish. This dish combines meat, usually pork or mutton, with white beans and seasonings. The dish originated in France.
- Casseroles can be made with just about any kind of meat as long as it contains some legume, such as beans or lentils. Some popular soups are made with ground beef, chicken, and tuna. The dish can also be made vegetarian by omitting the meat altogether. Most casserole dishes are cooked in an oven, although they can be cooked on the stovetop.
Is cassoulet a stew?
Although it is often described as a stew, cassoulet is not quite a stew. An authentic stew is simmered in a covered pot on top of the stove or in the oven with little liquid. Like braised dishes, stews are typically made with tougher cuts of meat that break down and become tender during cooking.
- By contrast, cassoulet is made with meats that are already tender: duck confit, pork sausage, goose fat, and sometimes mutton (or lamb). Some recipes also call for pork belly or shoulder cuts to be added to the mix.
Instead of being simmered in liquid, the meats are simmered very gently in their fat. Since few drinks are added to the dish, you must use a high-quality canned white bean for your cassoulet because the beans will not have the opportunity to absorb much flavor from the cooking broth.
3 regional styles of Cassoulet
Here are the 3 regional styles of cassoulet;
- The Toulouse Cassoulet
The first and most classic version of cassoulet is from Toulouse and is an easy one-pot meal to make at home. This version uses a combination of meats, such as pork sausage, goose, duck, and sometimes mutton or lamb.
- The Castelnaudary Cassoulet
This style tends to be more complicated in terms of preparation time and ingredients. It is made using different cuts of pork and duck and goose meat, served on a bed of cooked white beans with a broth made from garlic, thyme, onions, and other herbs and spices.
- The Carcassonne Cassoulet
This is the most straightforward recipe of all three traditional styles and uses only pork confit as its main ingredient.
Is Cassoulet better to use next day
Yes, it is! The flavors in this version of cassoulet were even better two days later. The bean stew becomes even more intensely flavored, and the sausage gets almost creamy as it soaks up the rich sauce.
- To reheat: Transfer about one-third of the cassoulet to a microwave-safe dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap—microwave on high power until hot, 3 to 5 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining cassoulet in batches.
Wines which goes with Cassoulet
The type of wine you pair with a meal depends on the dish's main ingredient. Cassoulet is made primarily with meat, so the wine should complement this aspect of the dish. Cassoulet is a stew containing lots of different flavors and textures. This can make it challenging to find a wine that doesn't clash with one or more of these tastes.
- Cassoulet is mainly made with pork but can also contain goose or duck and white beans. The best wines for cassoulet pair well with fatty meat, particularly pork and game birds such as duck and goose.
- The most famous wines to enjoy with cassoulet are red wines from France. In southern France, the region where cassoulet originated, Languedoc-Roussillon, produces wines that go particularly well with cassoulet.
- These include Minervois, Corbieres and Corbieres Boutenac, all of which are made from Syrah grapes. The tannins in these red wines cut through the richness of the pork fat in the dish and complement its flavors nicely.
Cassoulet is typically served with red wine. But the wines that go best with cassoulet are those that can stand up to a bean dish rich with duck, pork fat, and sausage meat. So don't serve your cassoulet with a light-bodied wine.
Wines That Go Well With Cassoulet:
- Côtes du Rhône
- Châteauneuf du Pape
- Red Bordeaux (Bordeaux rouge)
- Red Burgundy (Bourgogne rouge)
Popularity of Cassoulet
French cuisine is known the world over for its rich, hearty flavors. But while there are many different kinds of French food, one of the most famous — and widely eaten — dishes in France is the humble cassoulet.
Cassoulet is a bean-based stew that includes a variety of meats like sausage and duck confit, along with bread crumbs. It's packed full of flavor and very filling, making it a popular dish during the winter months in France.
- Cassoulet is considered a staple of traditional French cooking, but it has its roots in a much older culinary tradition: Roman cuisine. When Rome occupied modern-day France, they introduced two staples to their conquered lands: wine and beans.
Cassoulet can be served either hot or cold. If you're going to do it hard, allow it to cool down to room temperature, then transfer it to a container, covering it with plastic wrap or a lid and storing it in the refrigerator for up to three days. When you're ready to serve the cassoulet, please remove it from the fridge, allowing it to warm up on the counter for about 30 minutes before heating it in a 220 F oven for 20 minutes or until warmed through. You can also heat the cassoulet in a microwave-safe bowl on high for three minutes, stirring every minute until warmed through.
Serve Your Cassoulet Warm
If you decide to serve your cassoulet warm instead of cold, allow it to cool down slightly so that you don't burn the skin of your mouth and tongue when eating. My favorite way of serving cassoulet is lukewarm;
When it comes to cassoulet, first things first:
- Traditionally, this recipe features white beans, duck confit, sausage, and pork belly. If your cassoulet isn't made with these ingredients, then you're not making a traditional cassoulet. Now that that's out of the way — let's talk about how to eat it.
Cassoulet is a casserole, so there are few rules for serving (or eating) it.
- But there's a reason why I insist that you serve this dish on a deep plate (instead of a shallow bowl). Cassoulet is traditionally served with a crispy crust on top, which protects the rest of the dish from cooling quickly.
- And if you'd like to make it more elegant still, use tongs to serve each guest one piece of duck and one piece of sausage (with plenty of beans around).
So, when it comes to French comfort food, nothing can beat a steaming hot cassoulet dish. Cassoulet is the ultimate cold-weather treat, packed with pork and sausage, goose and duck, beans, and tomatoes. But how do you serve this hearty dish?