I am proud to say, I earned first place honors for both judges’ and people’s choice awards at the 5th Annual Cassoulet Cookoff at Jimmy’s No. 43 in Manhattan. This has been two years in the making, and I have provoked many cassoulet aficionados to twirl their long moustaches over my less traditional cassoulet, which features a duck blueberry sausage.
My first introduction a cassoulet was in 2009, a few days before New Year’s Eve, at my aunt and uncle’s house in Weston, Conn. On arrival, my aunt handed my husband Chris and me the Dean & DeLuca Cookbook and said, “We are making a cassoulet. You both need to figure this out since you are the foodies in the family.” Sad to say, we had no idea what cassoulet was. What kind of foodies were we, not to know the most coveted dish from the south of France? The combination of my ambition and Chris’ patience led us down the Cassoulet Trail, from Toulouse to Narbonne, ringing in the New Year with our first pot of the stew.
I frequently reflect on our first time making this French classic. Since then, I had to perfect and celebrate it.
In 2010, shortly after my aunt and uncle’s imposed introduction to cassoulet, I attended the second annual Jimmy’s No. 43 Cassoulet Cookoff. Originally, I thought I could pull off competing that year, but my husband felt I would be better served by eating my way through the competition. He was absolutely right.
Not only did I try a variety of interesting cassoulets, I also learned valuable lessons by listening to the chefs’ stories and intentions behind each dish.
Over the years, cassoulet had become a dish that started to define my intentions — telling a story about a time and place in my life. This year my story was inspired by Long Island; I used fowl from Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue and microgreens from Koppert Cress USA in Cutchogue.
There is no one single recipe for cassoulet; your story and personal touch will make yours special.