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November 25, 2008

Cassoulet for Thanksgiving

Cassoulet2_dt1
Illustration: Klas Fahlen

by Julia Bainbridge

Unfortunately, my Thanksgiving will be a turkey-less one. My siblings are scattered around the country and  spending the holiday with their fiancées' families this year, so there just aren't enough people to pick apart a big bird--not to mention my grandparents can't bear the thought of basting their 90th annual turkey. So, I'm making cassoulet: Hearty, homey, earthy, I think the dish will do the Thanksgiving trick.

In the December issue of Condé Nast Traveler, G.Y. Dryansky writes: "With all that France has done to promulgate haute cuisine, it may be hard to believe that, in the annals of French soul food, the bean is deified. But there they are: beans taken to the level of the sublime in the dish called cassoulet." Dryansky goes on to explore which meat and--equally important--which beans people use in the famous cassoulet-making towns of Carcassonne, Castelnaudary, and Toulouse.

Most recipes you'll find in American cooking magazines use white kidney beans, like this one from Jacques Pépin. He skips the duck confit--something French blogger Clotilde Dusoulier calls the French paradox--and goes for sweet Italian sausage, kielbasa, and Canadian bacon.

If you want to skip the meat altogether, Gourmet's got a quick-and-easy vegetarian cassoulet. Not exactly the kind of thing Dryansky found in his research, but full of beans nonetheless.

I'm going to go with Étienne Rousselot's crusty version printed in Saveur magazine. And I better get started today--the owner of Hostellerie Étienne cooks it over two days.

Further reading:
* Check out the December issue of Condé Nast Traveler for Dryansky's article, "The Secret Life of Beans"
* Parisian Pumpkin: How to celebrate Thanksgiving in the City of Lights
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

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