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Is this a cassoulet or not?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Is this a cassoulet or just a bean dish?

 

To be honest, I really don't care too much but I'd love to hear your opinion. It lacks that variety of meats that you will find in cassoulet and there's also the cassoulet Toulousain that contains lamb like my dish, but then again there's no tomato in there. It is one of those dishes that has as many variations as there are cooks. One thing is sure; if you're not into patience, this will not be your dish; total cooking time is 4 hours... but in fact, the recipe isn't all that difficult.

 

You need white beans, whatever kind. I used these large ones. I made my dish for 2-3 persons with 3 fistfuls of dried beans, 500 grams of lamb shoulder, 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a bouquet containing thyme, lovage, sage and parsley, 1 can of peeled tomatoes (not 2 like in the picture), 1 small can of tomato purée. (picture #1)

 

1. It is very important to soak the beans at least 24 hours in cold water. That's what I did but I still had just a few chewy ones in my completed dish, which is a sign that the beans weren't soaked enough! When soaking the volume of beans will double.

 

2. Cooking the beans. Sweat a chopped onion until translucent in butter or duck fat. Don't use oil, it will float on top of the dish when done!! Add tomato purée and let it fry for a few minutes to eliminate the harsh taste. Add the peeled tomatoes, the bouquet of herbs, add the soaked beans, add fresh water until the beans are covered (picture #2). Absolutely NO salt at all, it will make the beans chewy!!! Put on the stove on low fire for 2 hours. The beans will be sort of "al dente" in this stage. After that cooking time, crush the peeled raw garlic with a bit of salt into a smooth purée and add to the beans (picture #3). Season with s&p.

 

3. Sear the meat on medium high fire. Season well. Do NOT use a non-stick pan. When the meat is done, get rid of the fat (picture #5), put the pan back on the stove and deglaze with a bit of water. Stir to loosen all the goodies from the bottom of the pan. Add to the beans.

 

4. Get an oven dish and fill with the beans (picture #4). Add the seared meat half in, half out (picture #6). Put in an oven @180°C/350°F for another 2 hours. It's a good idea to check it a few times... and eventually adjust the temperature.

 

You will now have sort of a thin dark skin on top of the dish that is nothing else than caramelized tomato and other stuff (picture #7).

Bon appétit! So, what's your opinion, is this bean dish?

 

Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 1 Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 2

 

Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 3 Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 4

 

Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 5 Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 6

 

Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 7 Cassoulet with lamb shoulder 8

 

post #2 of 18

So how did it turn out?  It looks amazing.

 

The word cassoulet simply refers to the cooking vessel.  What ingredients you choose to put in it is irrelevant.  I think of a cassoulet as a meat-based dish cooked slowly in an earthenware pot.  

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #3 of 18

What?  Who cares?  ;)

 

It looks wonderful, and I bet it was!

post #4 of 18
Great dish, ChrisB.biggrin.gif
post #5 of 18

CapeChef broght this point out and his choice of wine is spot on.

Cassoulet

 

Chris,

 

Let me start off by telling you that your dish looks absolutely splendid as I am a big lover of lamb. (huge fan) I would be pleased  to try that dish anytime. Giving it a specific name ? Well its what the cook wants to put in it really.

 

We both know that every region has its own spin on cassoulet and I think you may have just created another. Well Done.

 

Our family uses sausage (toulouse and in some cases I have put my own spin by using kielbasa (I know heresy) ) and duck confit or goose. My uncle is a big hunter and I have a ready supply of it at any time, and of course lamb. Shoulder is a nice choice.

I find that the layers of these flavor profiles really shine through and more so when they are left for a day or so  to "mijoter" , giving it that deep rich flavor.

Another interesting character/texture is the crunch of the topping.

Using a cassole is nice if you have one but as we all know , not everyone does and so therefore you can use any deep dish.

 

When plating this dish , my cassoulet usually looks like a stew because all the meat has fallen off the bones, the fat rises to the top. I usually keep half of it in as it adds to the flavor. Served with good wine and crusty bread, what more does one want ?

 

FrenchFries made a nice one not that long ago. We discussed recipes .

 

I will be making one soon. I will post pics.

 

You are an increbible cook Chris, and you inspire us with your indepth knowledge of food and technique.

 

Cassoulet à la Chris, merveilleux !

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(165 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(165 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

@Koukou; Well, the taste is simply fantastic! I'm always interested how dishes from several countries seem to have such similarities, coincidence or learned from each other, it doesn't matter. I just looked on the internet for a "cassole" the typical plate in which a cassoulet is made... seems it is related to the greek word "Kyathion"?? Weird, isn't it?

 

@Kuan; you're right, Kuan, I don't care but I'm looking for people who made this dish before and maybe have important suggestions. Always welcome to hear from others! And absolutely, it was wonderful!

 

@Ishbel; thanks! It's much too long since I heared from you, Ish! How is Scotland treating you? I just picked a bucket of rosebuds this afternoon. I will make jam from them. I will make a post on it. I would be so glad to hear your comments.

 

@Petals; thank you, you're so kind. I would love to watch how you make a cassoulet! I left out the confit, the bacon and the saucisse de Toulouse, that's why I dought wether my concoction can be named a cassoulet; probably not... And I certainly have to check what FF posted on this subject.

 

Any other input on how to make a cassoulet is very welcome!

post #7 of 18
Hiya... Busy, busy, busy. biggrin.gif

My mum's apple and rosehip jelly was wonderful. I've never quite been able to replicate her jam, despite having the recipe!
post #8 of 18

The problem with the internet is that all we can do is have an opinion or make critics or say it looks wonderful or whatnot. 

 

When what I'd really, really like to do is sit in front of that plate and just eat it. And if I did, I'm pretty sure I couldn't care less what you call your dish, I would be too busy enjoying myself and the glass of wine we would HAVE to be sharing. 

 

One can always dream. Amazing job as always Chris. licklips.gif

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks, FF, I'm really looking what's the limit to make a dish like this that still can be called a cassoulet. Not that it matters all that much to me but if I'm serving this to a bunch of gourmands, I like to call it right. So, let's say I do want to use lamb (that was so good), what other additions would fit in that dish beside the beans of course? Confit de canard? Bacon?...

post #10 of 18

Whatever you call it, it looks delish :)  Here's one description, and an adaptation of Thomas Keller's recipe.

 

"Cassoulet is a rustic, slow-cooked dish made with white beans and a lavish assortment of meats, from duck confit or foie gras to sausages and succulent cuts of pork, lamb or poultry."

 

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/thomas-kellers-slow-cooker-cassoulet.html

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 

Cerise, thanks for posting that recipe. I now have so much less scruples on how to call my dish. If an ultra-famous cook like Thomas Keller can call his pulled pork and bean dish a cassoulet, then I'm at peace calling mine a cassoulet too instead of lamb shoulder and bean dish! Ainsi soit-il... peace.gif

post #12 of 18

Well that's a great sounding dish, but I doubt that the locals would call it a cassoulet. They seem to insist upon pork & duck/goose & beans. Plus lamb in many cases. Its this combination of meats that give cassoulet its unique taste.

 

Personally I don't much care what you call it since it sounds good.

 

Nobody so far seems to have mentioned one of the key steps of a cassoulet which is adding the bread crumbs. When the dish is nearly done you cover the top with a good layer of fresh bread crumbs & put it back in the oven. Many cooks then push the first layer of crumbs down into the cassoulet after they've browned a bit & then add a second layer. I do or don't add the second layer depending upon how much juice there is.

 

By the way I do a somewhat similar dish except that I use lamb shanks & green lentils instead of shoulder & beans. The other ingredients are pretty much the same as is the cooking method. Here Lamb shoulder is an expensive cut, but shanks are pretty cheap. Reckon you version would work well with shanks as well.

 

Nice recipe & nice pictures.

post #13 of 18

Sure is cassarole, cassoulet, or cholent (jewish style made on sabbath WITH kOSHER INGREDIENTS )               ALL THE SAME 

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post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post
 

Thanks, FF, I'm really looking what's the limit to make a dish like this that still can be called a cassoulet. Not that it matters all that much to me but if I'm serving this to a bunch of gourmands, I like to call it right. So, let's say I do want to use lamb (that was so good), what other additions would fit in that dish beside the beans of course? Confit de canard? Bacon?...

No bacon! But pork belly, yes, or even what we call "lard" in France, which is pretty much pork belly fat: you can use that to line the bottom of the dish, then add all the other ingredients on top. Duck or goose confit, saucisses de toulouse, slices of saucisson a l'ail are classic meats that you can add.

 

I'm certainly not going to tell you what the limit is to call it a cassoulet. All I can do is tell you what I would expect a dish called cassoulet to taste like....and how I would do it to get the desired result. 

 

I would use less tomatoes and a different kind of bean. Smaller beans like tarbais or coco or soissons... I obviously can't taste the beans you're using in your dish but they look like beans I can get here that wouldn't taste right for cassoulet. 

 

Not everybody use tomatoes in cassoulet, but usually when used, it's used in a very small amount. The final sauce around the beans shouldn't look red and people shouldn't be able to tell that there's tomato is in there, not by sight, not by taste. The following picture would be closer to the final color I'm going for:

 

 

I would also use more thyme. I have no idea how much you used, but I would use more. :lol: (I love thyme)

post #15 of 18

That's a great looking dish - congrats.  I always use some combination of red meat, sausage and fowl in my version of Cassoulet.  Doesn't really matter what, but I try to pair them up for balance.  A little fat on top never hurt anyone and it goes a long way in the flavor dept.  A good sausage, venison and duck, or goose would make an excellent pairing.  Remember confit and drying/smoking/curing is tradition because refrigeration was not an option when these recipes were developed.

post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 

@Yank; thanks for stepping in, I know from another thread you live in the Midi-Pyrénées, thé cassoulet country par excellence. In the recipe that Cerise posted, there's also breadcrumbs used by chef Thomas Keller. However, I now found this french website from the "Confrerie du cassoulet" where they post their recipe of the cassoulet de Castelnaudary; http://www.confrerieducassoulet.com/la_recette.html

 

Also no breadcrumbs are mentioned, but, here you can read this; "Pendant la cuisson il se formera sur le dessus de la cassole une croûte marron dorée qu'il faudra enfoncer à plusieurs reprises (les anciens disaient 7 fois)." Or in english; while cooking, a golden brown crust will form on top of the cassole. You need to push it down for a number of times. The old people said to do this 7 times.

But, I just read on a dutch website that breadcrumbs are used in many cassoulet preparations and indeed, pushed in up to 3 times after they are colored! Good to know that we're looking at a recipe from Castelnaudary and as you know there's also recipes Carcassonne and Toulouse... which aren't mentioned.

 

@Ed; thanks for mentioning those similarities.

 

@FrenchFries; very delicious looking dish in your  picture! According to la confrererie du cassoulet's recipe, they recommend the lingot bean, and also, there's no tomato at all in their recipe. According to the read I just mentioned, that source suggests to use the tarbais bean like you did, they even call them the Rolls-Royce of cassoulet beans.

Interesting from la confrerie's recipe and others, is the initial blanching of the raw beans in boiling water during 5 minutes, then strain them and start again to boil in fresh liquid. I know they do this to get rid of impurities and make them more digestible. (Note; this is also done with larger pieces of meat in stocks.)

 

Certainly worth reading on the recipe page from the confrererie is "La recette du cassoulet d'après Prosper Montagné - Le Festin Occitan, 1929".

 

@Mike; very interesting combinations! Looks after all that there's not really a strict recipe to follow. Anyway, I wouldn't call my concoction a cassoulet after having a bit of research. Dito for Thomas Keller's recipe. But then again, like many said in this thread; does it matter? A little, for inspiration and out of respect for such an ancient dish... that has been there even before the tomato was introduced in that region.  One thing is a fact; taste should indeed be everything in a dish, original or not.

 

post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBelgium View Post
 

@FrenchFries; (...) According to la confrererie du cassoulet's recipe, they recommend the lingot bean, and also, there's no tomato at all in their recipe. According to the read I just mentioned, that source suggests to use the tarbais bean like you did, they even call them the Rolls-Royce of cassoulet beans.

Did you know that according to the legend, cassoulet was originally made with fava beans?

 

The story I've heard (never tried to verify it but I'll share it anyway for what it's worth) is that a castle was being sieged by the ennemy for a long time, and inside the castle, food started becoming an issue. The whole village was inside the castle, so they asked everybody to bring whatever food they had left, and placed everything in one big pot and cooked everything for a long time, and cassoulet was born. 

post #18 of 18
To be fair about the tomato Chris used, his starting point was a Greek dish I made in another thread with meat braised in tomato sauce so he started there and went the way of beans while my dish went the way of pasta.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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