To Bean or not to Bean with Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a dish from the Languedoc region in the South of France. It consists of white beans cooked in a pot with various meats. The word cassoulet comes from the pot in which it is cooked called cassole, an old word no longer used in France. Before becoming a part of the haute cuisine dishes of French gastronomy, it belonged to the realm of farm foods. The pot continuously remained on the back of a stove, and the cook would throw in any edible leftovers. Some experts claim that the dish was invented during a siege in the French city called Castelnaudary by the Prince of Wales in 1355. The starving townspeople gathered their remaining food and cooked it all in a big cauldron. However, there is still some debate about the exact origin of the dish and others point to the fact that a version of this dish had already been invented by the Spanish Muslims in the 12th century. While the recipe does vary from chef to chef, the beans are a fixture of cassoulet. Waverly Root, English journalist and writer, identifies three main types of cassoulet: the dishes from Castelnaudary, Carcasonne, and Toulouse. The main difference between these cassoulets is the type of meat used (in addition to the main base of pork, sausage, ham, some regions add partridge, mutton or goose). Considered a wintertime comfort food type of meal, cassoulet has its own holiday in the United States (January 9th)!

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