Recipe: Cassoulet
 

Note: One of our most controversial stories this year was Russ Parsons' February cover piece on beans, "To Soak or Not to Soak, It's No Longer a Question." Ignoring conventional wisdom, Parsons ran several cooking experiments and found that dried beans do NOT have to be soaked before cooking. "Letting dried beans sit overnight in a bowl of cold water does nothing to improve their flavor or their texture. In fact, it does quite the opposite," Parsons wrote. "While soaking shortens the unattended cooking time of beans somewhat, the time saved is marginal and there are no other labor-saving benefits. Finally soaking does absolutely nothing to reduce the gas-producing properties of beans."

There was some grumbling on the part of disbelievers, but once people started trying recipes using unsoaked beans, we won several converts. One recipe from the issue that showed how well the method worked is this amazingly delicious cassoulet, adapted from Richard Olney's "The French Menu Cookbook" (Godine: 1970).

As Parsons wrote in his article, "Cassoulet is not a recipe for the faint of heart -- or the short of time. Allow yourself two days to do this one, and the amount of work should be manageable. And rest assured, the flavors are more than worth the effort."

Pan-Fried Goose

Bean Stew

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into short lengths

1 lamb shoulder, all surface fat removed, cut into large pieces but not boned

Salt

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup dry white wine

3 cloves garlic

Mixed herbs, such as dried thyme, oregano, marjoram and savory

1 (1-pound) can tomatoes or 3 to 4 fresh tomatoes

2 whole cloves garlic

White bread crumbs

Prepare Pan-Fried Goose and Bean Stew. Set aside. In 2 tablespoons fat rendered from Pan-Fried Goose, cook onions and carrots in heavy saute pan (just big enough to hold meat placed side by side) about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until lightly browned.

Remove onions and carrots. In same pan over high heat, brown pieces of lamb, seasoned to taste with salt, in same fat. When browned on all sides, sprinkle with flour. Turn pieces over, then return vegetables to pan. When flour is lightly cooked, add white wine, garlic and sprinkling of herbs to taste. Scrape and stir with wooden spoon to loosen and dissolve browned bits. Transfer contents to heavy casserole.