I am planning my Christmas dinner. I happen to have a duck in the freezer and since this Christmas will be a small affair of my husband and my two little people, we are thinking of making one of our favorite dishes. Cassoulet (filled with delicious meats and the best part – soul nourishing cassoulet beans). It brings with it cherished memories of Toulouse and drinking Armagnac and days when it was just my husband and me. It’s warm stewiness seems perfect for an intimate Christmas in our snowed in house in the woods. I am a lover all things from the garden – so I am hoping in future years, my cassoulet can become a holiday tradition – made from beans that I grew in my own garden.
Which beans to grow for cassoulet?
G.Y. Dryansky wrote an excellent article titled “The Secret Life of Beans” for Conde Nast Traveller that explored this famed dish and its ingredients. The bean, being most important to the cassoulet recipe, has me interested.
I have tried to make cassoulet before, to less than perfect results. I need to perfect my technique and but even more importantly, my ingredients were not right. A good cassoulet will not turn too mushy and be unable to hold the flavors without falling apart. With some research I’ve found the Tarbais bean seed at one of my favorite gardening sites – L’atelier Vert (which sadly does not exist anymore).
The Tarbais is widely regarded as the best bean for cassoulet and carries with it the coveted “Label Rouge”*. Thankfully, Purcell Mountain Farms also sells the tarbais bean seeds. So I will be planting these beauties for further cassoulet making practice next fall.
In the mean time, I think I have found some suitable substitutes for this Christmas – so long as I get over and order right now at Rancho Gordo. (if you are any type of foodie with a penchant for beans, you have to know about Rancho Gordo).
I think the Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beans, Ayocote Blanco, Royal Corona, or Flageolet Bean will do nicely. Rancho Gordo has a great selection of beans…I am inspired to cook all kinds of things regional dishes every time I visit their site.
Where to buy speciality bean seed for the garden:
- L’atelier Vert (please come back!)
- Purcell Mountain Farms
- Rancho Gordo
I haven’t read anything to imply that growing cassoulet beans is any more complicated than growing any other bean you might have tried in your garden. In fact, any second grader can tell you that all you have to do is place them between the sheets of a wet paper towel, put them in a cup and line them up in front of the classroom window.😉 Or just put them in the ground and water them.
*The Label Rouge is a French national sign, which refers to products which by their terms of production or manufacture have a higher level of quality compared to other similar products usually marketed.
images by Dana McMahan (CC), William Newton (CC), Buster&Bubby (CC)