There is food I dream about. And the classic French cassoulet is the top of my list. This dense, rich, earthy casserole of beans, sausages and meats gently simmering – filling my kitchen with its mouth-watering aroma is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of.
Since we now raise our own pork I was even more determined this dish should be perfection itself. I now have lean fresh pork fat, fresh pork rinds and spare ribs. All organic, all from milk fed pork. What I did not have was Tarbais beans. It is the these fat, white, meltingly smooth French beans that are the essential ingredients for authentic cassoulet. The skin of the Tarbais beans is unusually thin and delicate. The bean is low in starch and of remarkable tenderness.
I poured over my seed catalog and found the Heirloom Tarbais seeds. We were a little late planting our garden this year but seven days ago we lovingly and tenderly patted the soil over the beans. Almost like Jack’s magic beans they popped out of the ground four days later. This summer promises to be incredibly hot. Perfect weather for beans. They will grow through the summer climbing up to six feet on supports and finally in the fall we will pick, shell and store away our Tarbais beans.
Come the rainy, gray winter months Tarbais beans will find their way into a slow cooked cassoulet of incredible richness and flavour. Over two days the ingredients will be off the stove and in and out of the oven several times. Then when the breadcrumbs on the top of the cassoulet become a mahogany brown I will give it a quick stir and return it to the oven one last time. It will be the perfect dish to serve for Friday night supper with friends and family. There will be lots of crusty home-made bread to sop up the juices. I’ll provide extra large napkins to tuck under chins and we’ll sit around the kitchen table and nibble and talk into the night.
(recipe to follow sometime in the winter months to come)