An acquaintance of mine, a Cuban lady, recognized a picture of cassoulet, a French gourmet dish of Languedoc, immediately. Oh, that’s “judías fritas!”, she said. The funny thing is that, except for browning chunks of pork and lamb in pork fat, nothing is fried. White beans and sausage are boiled, duck is broiled, and chicken stock, garlic, onions, and bouquet garni are added to the rest in layers in a big casserole, topped with bread crumbs, and the whole thing is brought to a boil on top of the stove before being baked an hour and a quarter. The crust can then be pushed into the cassoulet, and another layer of bread crumbs added before baking some more. That can be repeated two or three times. The dish is served directly from the pot, sprinkled with parsley. Toulouse, Castelnaudary, and Carcassonne all claim to have the original, authentic cassoulet, each a bit different, and each marvelous. Toulouse insists upon preserved goosemeat, Carcassonne on lamb, and Castelnaudary on pork, but to me the marvel is that it can be bought in a can with all of the above, not so “gourmet”, perhaps, but the best meal-in-a-can in all the world!


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