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HELP!! Cassoulet with Tarbais beans (from D'Artagnan) is SOUP!!!

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lisaud Mar 5, 2011 05:58 AM

So, after some discussion in a previous thread, I ordered the D'Artagnan cassoulet with the pricy Tarbais beans and pretty much followed the recipe they sent...
I am unimpressed by the tarbais. They do taste good but they cooked much faster than they should have, many fell apart and quite a few disintegrated and now I have something that is closer to soup than stew. I finished it up to the last part where the oven temp is raised to 400 and, after returning the cassoulet to room temp, it is baked for 20 minutes to brown and, I guess, to form a crust. I will do that but I don't think it will get rid of all the liquid. I was thinking of spooning it out but I fear that will eliminate some flavor (which is quite yummy actually)
So HELP!! Guidance please!!!

  1. Bada Bing Mar 5, 2011 06:38 AM

    I've made several versions of cassoulet, and the one time I used that kit and followed their instructions, it actually came out rather dry. Did you introduce more than the 1 quart or so of liquid that they ask for? Could you describe how soupy?

    Anyway, at least one thing doesn't add up for me in their recipe. On the one hand, they say that cassoulet should be served very hot. On the other hand, they say you can make it ahead to the last step and then chill it, thereafter bringing it to room temp and blasting it 20 minutes uncovered at 400. There's no way that 20 minutes at 400 is going to make that mass piping hot.

    What I did with the chilled cassoulet was bake it almost an hour uncovered at 325, then cranking the heat to 400 in the end. That probably gave added evaporation.

    p.s., their recipe as written is also ambiguous about when the dish should cook covered and uncovered. (The recipe on the website says to cook the dish uncovered for two hours and then the next step is to uncover the dish and cook at 400!) Another hour of uncovered gentle oven time should help.

    http://www.dartagnan.com/51260/a3010/...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bada Bing
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      lisaud Mar 5, 2011 09:20 AM

      They included a recipe with the kit and I followed that one. Obviously one of them is wrong. Oh well. It won't be perfect but I think it will taste good.

    2. Yank Mar 5, 2011 07:17 AM

      First let me say that this thing about Tarbais beans is a myth. Its a great marketing ploy by the farmers cooperative based around Tarbes in SW France. When in the states I use great northern beans which work just fine.
      I can only guess about the soupy consistency & breaking up beans, but I would guess that you put in too much liquid with beans that were already fully cooked. The trick with cassoulet is to just undercook the beans SEPARATELY. Cook all of your meats. THEN fill your cassole with layers of meat then beans then beans & so on. Pack the layers tightly. Add just enough wine to barely cover everything. Now cook for a few hours to blend the flavors. If the liquid level gets too low add reserved bean juice to top up. Add more liquid near the end if you're going to do a traditional bread crumb crust to finish.
      Full pictorial recipe on my blog if you're interested.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Yank
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        lisaud Mar 5, 2011 09:19 AM

        Yes, the beans were prettty much fully cooked even though I had only cooked them for maybe a half hour. I was kind of shocked because I cook beans fairly often but never Tarbais. I will NEVER use them again. I used cannellini beans last time and they were quite good. I guess I shouldn't have added all the stock but there was not a lot of liquid in the pot when I put it into bake.
        So now what? Do you agree with BadaBing that I should cook it for another hour uncovered on lower heat (say 350) or will this add to the problem of soupiness? I have to serve it tonight? I wasn't going to add bread crumbs but will if it will help.

        1. re: lisaud
          Bada Bing Mar 5, 2011 09:34 AM

          By sheerest coincidence, I cooked exactly those beans (from D'Artagnan) this week on a low simmer for two hours and they were, at that point, just under fully done. How long did you soak your beans? Apart from going with a pressure cooker, it's hard to imagine how a dried bean that size could cook in 30 minutes.

          Anyway, can you describe the level of soupiness? Say one watery end of the spectrum is that you actually have things floating in fluid on the top, and the next step down would be something like a moist bean chili, where, if you tilted the pot, the contents would tend to slosh a bit to keep the surface level.

          The cassoulets that I've made are all drier than either of those steps, so that if you tilt the pot, the solid contents remain fixed while the fluid base, down an inch or so below the surface, might get visible on one edge.

          If you have fluid right up to the top, I'd ladle off the top inch (saving it for some other use) and then bake the remainder.

          1. re: Bada Bing
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            lisaud Mar 5, 2011 11:17 AM

            At the moment its cold and fully congealed so I'm really not sure. I guess it its like a moist bean chili. The thing that's really annoying is that there are about half as many beans because the rest disintegrated. I can't believe this happened. I thought I was fully prepared to do this right. too.
            I guess I soaked them too long...about 16 hours. I often do that without this outcome but then...I've never cooked with these beans. Believe me I was shocked when I checked on them and realized they were almost overdone. I'm Kind of upset; these are not people I entertain often and I really wanted it to come out kind of perfect. Oh well.

            1. re: lisaud
              Yank Mar 7, 2011 12:20 PM

              Too bad. Did you try top off cooking with lots of bread crumbs to soak up the excess juices?

              It might help & can't hurt. I think.

      2. DArtagnan_Inc Mar 7, 2011 01:30 PM

        Hey, D'Artagnan here! We've checked the recipe on the website against the printed recipe that we send with the cassoulet kit. On the website the recipe states to cook uncovered, in which case you might end up with a drier cassoulet, so you would have to add stock or water as it cooks. The printed recipe says it should be cooked covered for 2 hours and then uncovered at the last stage to create a crust. Both versions work, but the printed version is a little less hands-on, since you don’t have to check the oven so often.

        Either way, the recipe in the kit should have worked for you, Lisaud. We are not sure what made it “soupy”—did you fully drain the beans before you assembled the cassoulet? Our recipe states to cook them about an hour, until barely tender, and your 16 hours of soaking is not enough to turn them to mush. Was the water you soaked the beans in hot or cold? Salted or not?

        The miracle of Tarbais beans is that they have the perfect thickness which allows some to burst and the rest remain whole during cooking, creating a thick paste-like "sauce" that binds the cassoulet together. They are the secret to making the best cassoulet. And we are not alone in thinking this! Check out this WSJ article from last week: http://tinyurl.com/6x2sbdo

        You can use Cannellini, Great Northern beans, or even fresh fava beans (in SW France, a springtime cassoulet is made that way) but of course, cooking times will vary with different beans. We sure hope your cassoulet dried out in the oven and that you enjoyed the dinner. Don't hesitate to call us if you want to talk about this: 800-DARTAGNan, ext 132.

        1. a
          AdamD Mar 7, 2011 01:42 PM

          I think its great the purveyor replied to your posts. Kudos.

          Cassoulet is something that takes a few tries to get exactly how you want it and people's preferences vary. Aside from the difficulty of getting the consistency just right, I am interested in the flavor component. How tasty were the duck, sausage and stock? That is really what you are paying for IMHO.

          And dare I say it, but feel free to add some additional beans to the mix if the consistency is off but the flavor is good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: AdamD
            CarrieWas218 Mar 7, 2011 01:48 PM

            I have to agree with Adam - I made three or four cassoulet before finally hitting upon the right combination and for me, Tarbais are not only essential, but make a world of difference in providing the ultimate, creamy and rich texture I am looking for.

            Or for me, I had to cook through a half-a-dozen different recipes before I settled on the one in Paula Wolfert's "Cooking of Southwest France" for the right ratio of meat, beans, et al...

            1. re: CarrieWas218
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              AdamD Mar 7, 2011 01:53 PM

              IMHO Cassoulet is like risotto or cooking a duck breast. You need to fail a few times before you get the technique down pat. :) Eventually, you will find the sequence that makes your mouth happy!

          2. sunshine842 Mar 7, 2011 11:38 PM

            Just for information, here's the official recipe of the Confrerie du Cassoulet, the brotherhood of cassoulet based in Castelnaudary (in French):

            http://www.confrerieducassoulet.com/l...

            3 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842
              sunshine842 Mar 9, 2011 12:59 PM

              and followup -- I made this recipe today -- it's an all-dayer -- and it ROCKS.

              No breadcrumbs, no tomato paste, no screwing around for days and days...just silky, delicious cassoulet.

              Next time I'll cook it for less time (I went for the full 2 hours on the stove and 3 hours in the oven, after an overnight soak) because more of the beans had gone to puree than I care for...but it's okay -- we'll lick the plates clean.

              Google translate does a pretty respectable job with this page -- what's funky is pretty easily twigged from the context and what you already know about cooking....but this one is the keeper.

              By the way -- I bought my beans from a producer in Castelnaudary (they're working on getting the IGP, but haven't succeeded yet) -- they're labeled lingots blancs....so whatever long white beans you have will be fine.

              1. re: sunshine842
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                AdamD Mar 9, 2011 01:52 PM

                Is there an English version? And where do you source the confit and sausages?

                1. re: AdamD
                  sunshine842 Mar 9, 2011 02:24 PM

                  Google Translate http://www.google.com/language_tools?... does a pretty decent job with this one -- paste the above link into the box for "translate a web page".

                  In the US, your best source for confit is probably D'Artagnan, and a Toulouse sausage is a fresh pork (not smoked) sausage with plenty of garlic - so NOT a kielbasa (smoked) -- it's not terribly picky.

                  anybody else help with the sourcing?

            2. a
              AdamD Mar 9, 2011 02:46 PM

              thanks-might try that
              funny a lot of recipes call for a smoked sausage as a substitute

              Now if Heston Blumenthal would do a search for the perfect cassoulet I could probably come up with something better than my cyrovac confit, canned beans, domestic garlic sausage and boxed stock.

              That being said, my version is very tasty-I use panko to crust it up and once I substituted chick peas, which worked very well in a pinch...sue me :)

              3 Replies
              1. re: AdamD
                sunshine842 Mar 9, 2011 02:51 PM

                you don't translate line by line.

                Go to Google Translate at http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en

                Scroll down a little bit to the box that says "translate a web page"

                copy the webpage address: http://www.confrerieducassoulet.com/l... and paste it into the the box that says "translate a web page"

                Select "French" in the first dropdown box on the left below the address box. leave the other one on "English"

                Click "translate" and the whole page comes up translated into (slightly goofy) English, with photos and everything.

                It's taken more time to tell you how to do it (twice) than it takes to actually translate it.

                Sorry, but if you put panko and chickpeas in it, it might have made a tasty dish, but it wasn't cassoulet...and who needs boxed stock? Follow the recipe and you'll have plenty of stock to finish the dish.

                1. re: sunshine842
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                  AdamD Mar 9, 2011 03:02 PM

                  I know, I know.................but necessity is the mother of invention!

                  Thanks for the tips and the critique.

                  EDIT: Thanks for showing me that translation page!

                  1. re: AdamD
                    sunshine842 Mar 9, 2011 09:23 PM

                    and you can use this page to convert the measurements:

                    http://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/

              2. l
                Lynndsey Rigberg Mar 9, 2011 03:09 PM

                I'm super impressed that D'Artagnan responded - bravo!

                But I just wanted to make a sugggestion for your future cassoulet experiments - have you tried Mayacoba beans? They sell them at Whole Foods in the bulk bin and worth trying. They are creamy, but hold their shape well....plus, they're a great value. Best of luck!!!

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