Cassoulet is a French white bean based casserole with many variations. If you've never tried cassoulet before, this is definitely the day to do it! If you love cooking, this could be a fun challenge for you. The traditional dish is not easy to make and can take some time, but there are plenty of simplified recipes online if you want to keep it simple.
A Hill of Beans
White beans were introduced to France after Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. Catherine de Medici, queen of France, started importing white beans, which led to extensive cultivation in Southwest France.
Stewed Over Facts
The first cassoulet is claimed by the city of Castelnaudary, which was under siege by the British during the Hundred Years War. The beleaguered townspeople gathered up the ingredients they could find and made a large stew to nourish and bolster their defenders.
Andre Daguin, a famous chef of Gascony says, "Cassoulet is not really a recipe, it’s a way to argue among neighboring villages of Gascony." Much like chili cook-offs in Texas, cassoulet cooking competitions are held, not only in France, but now in the United States
The sanctity of cassoulet has remained in Castelnaudary, in part by conducting surprise taste tests of the cassoulets offered by local chefs. And there is an Academie Universelle du Cassoulet, whose members promote the cassoulet and its significant cultural heritage (they even have a theme song).
Cassoulet was originally cooked in the hearth, or a bread baker’s oven, using residual heat. The low heat allowed the beans to break down and all the flavor and fat of the meat to melt into the beans.
Cassoulet has influences from the Americas, Spain, and Arab regions