In a restaurant dining room, it’s the mouthwatering fragrance of long-simmered dishes, from casseroles and cassoulets to other textbook comfort food, that make for a most sumptuous meal—especially with the cold weather fast approaching.
Each casserole will have its own personality and so requires its own wine pairing. But cassoulet, originally from southwestern France, has a basic foundation of meat, beans, vegetables and herbs, which makes the wine match a bit more straightforward.
Some cooks keep the cassoulet lean with beans and veggies, a flavor profile steered solely by a bouquet garni, while other cooks infuse the dish with juicy chunks of meat, including pork, duck, sausage, lamb and beef.
The recipes that stress beans and vegetables pair well with a forward red such as Côtes du Rhône or other Syrah-based wine. A cassoulet that includes tomatoes or long-simmered meat, particularly duck or pork, needs something a bit more aggressive, perhaps a Madiran (based on the under-appreciated Tannat grape) or Cahors (mostly Malbec, with a bit of Tannat).
In Washington, D.C., Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar serves up a classic and wonderfully heart-warming cassoulet with duck confit, lamb, Toulouse garlic sausage, cannellini beans and tomato, accented with a seductive ambrosia of herbs. This dish was perfectly complemented by the Jean Luc Colombo 2007 Les Abeilles Côtes du Rhône and the Château Laffite-Teston 2006 Vielles Vignes from Madiran. Both had the depth and body to stand up to the many flavors of the cassoulet and bring out the best in the dish.
Bistrot Lepic Cassoulet
1 pound dry canellini beans
1 Spanish onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 whole head of garlic, minced
¼ pound bacon, diced
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 juniper berries
2 pieces clover (optional, if used, should be boiled first)
¼ pound lamb, cubed
½ pound Toulouse sausage, cut into single-bite sizes
Thyme, laurel, sea salt and pepper to taste
5 duck leg confit
Soak beans overnight. On the day of preparing the cassoulet, begin by boiling the beans for 15 minutes, then drain but reserve the juice. Sautée the onions, carrots, garlic and bacon with diced tomato and tomato paste until they sweat. Mix all ingredients except duck confit, spices and Bay leaf together in a large pot, wet it with the juice of the beans, add salt, pepper, thyme and Bay leaves and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours until beans are fully cooked. Add duck confit at the end of cooking, thoroughly warm through, and serve. Serves 4–6.