Every country has its version of Soul food, which is food prepared from humble ingredients often by people with little means. Over the years, these modest meals have inched their way into fine dining establishments and more importantly, they occupy a key role in the fabric of cultural identity. France is no different and although its cuisine is often associated with gastronomy at its highest level; enter the Cassoulet, a dish that is a great source of pride for the nation.
The Cassoulet is a traditional dish from the Occitanie region in southwestern France. It is a hearty stew whose very foundation lies with the white bean whose ability to absorb flavors after being slow cooked for hours on end, provides a creamy comforting texture. From there, depending on the town and seasonality of available products, duck, pork, mutton, or sausage or varying combinations of these meats are added to the bean base. The traditional Cassoulet can take upwards of 6 hours to prepare, the result is a delicious warm hug for your Soul.
No one truly knows the origins of the Cassoulet, but the townspeople of Castelnaudary claim to be its forbearers. They founded a Brotherhood of the Cassoulet, Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudry with knights and chapters extending to French Guyana. The town hosts an annual feast in honor of the dish. The region formed a cultural partnership with local businesses and developed La Route du Cassoulet (The cassoulet Trail) itineraries to promote the Southwestern region of France. From Toulouse to Carcassonne explore historic sites from medieval times and rich landscapes where ingredients for the Cassoulet are sourced. There are cooking classes, workshops, wine tasting, and much more all dedicated to the revered Cassoulet.
Much like champagne in France, Cassoulet is serious business. All participating farms and restaurants have a special designation and have signed a charter of quality to preserve the integrity and cultural heritage of the Cassoulet.
Hardie Grant Publishing
Join award-winning journalist Sylvie Bigar on an emotional and sensory culinary journey through France as she delves into the exploration of the Cassoulet, a traditional French bean stew with origins in Southwestern France.
Sylvie Bigar is a Swiss-born food and travel writer based in New York City. Her works are featured in renowned US and French publications including the New York Times and the Figaro just to name a few.
Originally on an assignment in France to write about this popular French dish, Bigar became fascinated and completely consumed by the subject of Cassoulet triggering within her a deep emotional response to the rich scents and flavors of French cooking. The experience inspired her to write Cassoulet Confessions her memoir mixed with dramatic ingredients, Bigar unpacks her complex upbringing and family history.
Traditional Cassoulet Recipe
Learn how to make Cassoulet with an easy to follow step by step recipe.