The French traditional Cassoulet is definitely the best known gem of Languedoc Roussillon's gastronomy. This typical dish from Southern France is a simple casserole of haricot beans stewed with mutton, pork or sausages originated from Castelnaudary, the main harbour of the Canal du Midi that joins the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
According to cooks from Southern France, the authentic Cassoulet recipe originates from Castelnaudary, but Toulouse and Carcassonne also claim their own versions of this renowned wintry dish!
The main difference between the three ways of cooking the Cassoulet lies in the meat: in Castelnaudary, the stew is traditionnally made with pork and Toulouse sausage whilst in Carcassonne, the recipe is based on lamb and (occasionally) partridge. The cassoulet from Toulouse is the richest one, including fresh lard, local Toulouse sausage and duck or goose confit.
Whatever recipe you choose, the essential part of the authentic Cassoulet is to slowly cook all the ingredients together - meat, white haricot beans, carrots, celery sticks, garlic, onions, thyme, parsley - in an earthenware pot called "cassole", from which the original Southwest stew received its name. The stew is then oven baked for several hours, exalting all the aromas of the seasoning local herbs.
It is not surprising that this delightful convivial casserole, typical of the gastronomy of Southern France, has become a classic on every honourable tables throughout the country!
According to Taillevant's cooking book (Le Viandier), the renowned Cassoulet derives drom the héricot, a mutton casserole made with broad beans, turnips and local aromatic herbs.
This 14th-century ragout was known as the poors' dish since it used to be prepared with the leftovers and cooked in a hand-crafted pot, the traditional "cassole" produced at that time in a village near Castelnaudary.
In many restaurants of the Languedoc Roussillon region, this traditional ragout of beans and meats is served as a main course, accompanied with a local red wine. And regarding the possible letfovers, people from Languedoc Roussillon assert that like most casseroles and regional dishes, the Cassoulet is even tastier when re-heated!