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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Cassoulet

One evening, a number of years ago, after we’d knocked back practically a barrel of bourbon, my friend took it upon himself to read Ernest Hemingway’s The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber to us. Despite the title, there was nothing short about it; he read for what felt like hours. (Just imagine: a massive breath or a pause for another sip of Maker’s Mark to add dramatic effect as he turned each weighted page with a licked index finger.)

Frankly, I hadn’t much cared for Hemingway at that point, and this soliloquy damned near put an end to my interest in him entirely until I read A Moveable Feast—here was the extraordinary life of Hemingway himself, part of the Lost Generation in 20’s Paris! And eating his way through all of it!

Among the oysters and white wine (and Zelda and Gertrude Stein, of course), there was also cassoulet, the hearty dish of white beans, duck, and sausage. While the creation of cassoulet is attributed to Carcassonne in the region of Languedoc, Hemingway spotted it on a bistro menu in Montparnasse.

Cassoulet is a slow process of braising meat and aromatics (taking nearly as long to make as it takes to have The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber read to you), but well worth it. I also think it’s essential to then let your cassoulet sit overnight before heating it up again in the oven to serve.

Rest assured, when I laid this sumptous pot on the dinner table for some friends recently, I had everyone’s attention.

My favorite version is here, but you might like Julia Child’s epic foray, Jacques Pepin's “quick version” or a simpler chicken variation here, which is more like a fricassee.

As Hemingway wrote to a friend in 1950, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Do enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I first encountered cassoulet in the Rue Mouffetard at the long gone, Auberge Chez Nadine. Peter, your post happily evokes fond memories of that hearty ravishing of my palate. O la-la!