Cassoulet is a
rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France,
containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes
mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.
The dish is named after the cassole, the distinctive deep round earthenware pot
with slanting sides in which cassoulet is traditionally cooked.
Numerous regional variations exist, the best-known being the cassoulet from
Castelnaudary, the self-proclaimed "Capital of Cassoulet", Toulouse, and
Carcassonne. All are made with white beans (haricots blancs or lingots), which
have replaced the medieval broad bean Vica fava, and duck or goose confit, meat
In the cassoulet of Toulouse, the meats are pork and mutton, the
latter frequently a cold roast shoulder. The Carcassonne version is similar but
doubles the portion of mutton and sometimes replaces the duck with partridge.
The cassoulet of Castelnaudary uses a duck confit instead of mutton and serves
it in a special dish (the "cassole").
Cassoulet is also sold in France as a commercial product in cans and can be
found in supermarkets and grocery stores across the country. These cassoulets
vary in price and quality. The cheapest ones contain only beans, tomato sauce,
sausages, and bacon — duck and goose are expensive and thus are absent from such
preparations. More expensive versions are likely to be cooked with goose fat and
to include Toulouse sausages, lamb, goose, or duck confit.
Haute cuisine versions require mixing pre-cooked roasted meats with beans that
have been simmered separately with aromatic vegetables, but this runs counter to
cassoulet's peasant origins. In the process of preparing the dish it is
traditional to deglaze the pot from the previous cassoulet in order to give a
base for the next one. This has led to stories of a single original cassoulet
being extended for years or even decades.
Many culinary traditions have similar techniques for slow cooking beans in a
covered vessel. Examples include
Fabada Asturiana, and
The Hungarian-Jewish solet and Eastern European
cholent are similar bean dishes,
and are also frequently cooked in combination with smoked poultry, especially
goose leg, but a definitive relationship has not been established.