Cassoulet: Savory Taken Seriously

No French dish is as steeped in history, myth and religion as cassoulet. Natives of southwestern France's Languedoc region link their very cultural identity to the archetypical peasant dish, a rich, earthy casserole of beans, meat and herbs. Cassoulet is said to date back to the 14th century siege of Castelnaudary during the Hundred Years' War, when citizens created a communal dish so hearty their revivified soldiers sent the invaders packing. But since then several cities have laid claim to the true recipe. In a conciliatory gesture, chef Prosper Montagné decreed in 1929 that "God the father is the cassoulet of...

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