Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: La Vie en Marczyk cassoulet
Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with a spacious kitchen. They often bring some of their market's best ingredients home with them and cook up a feast, and when they're not cooking at home, they're working with the staff at Marczyk's to create recipes for the rest of us to enjoy, often turning to Whitney Ariss, a home cook and the market's marketing project manager and events coordinator, for inspiration.
"I wrote this recipe specifically for our Marczyk After Hours event coming up
on Sunday, which features cassoulet," says Ariss, adding that "cassoulet is one of the quintessential French comfort foods" and "a dish that all fans of slow-cooked, meat-laden goodness should have in their kitchen repertoire."
There are numerous recipes for cassoulet, admits Ariss, but there are certain ingredients, she insists, that are non-negotiable: "You need to use really good white beans -- don't let anybody tell you to use the canned ones! -- plenty of duck (or goose) fat,
and freshly made French-style sausages," says Ariss, adding that all of these ingredients are available at Marczyk's. "Our house-made French sausages were created specifically to be the ideal sausage for cassoulet for their garlicky flavor (with just a hint of white wine) and their smaller size," she notes.
Her recipe starts with Rancho Gordo classic cassoulet beans. "For all the fussy Francophiles out there, you might already know that for truly authentic cassoulet, you must find a French-grown Tarbais bean, and Rancho Gordo's cassoulet beans start from authentic tarbais seed, but are grown in California, and we'll be a monkey's uncle if you could tell the difference," she promises. "They're perfectly suited for cassoulet because they're large, creamy, and hold their shape through those hours and hours of
slow-cooking while a lesser bean might turn to mush," she adds.
Cassoulet is a hearty fall dish that doesn't require a side dish or salad to
steal its thunder, but, insists Ariss, "you absolutely must serve it with plenty of good -- and preferably French -- bread for sopping up all those lovely liquids." She recommends a baguette, or the miche loaf from Marczyk's if you're making the cassoulet for a crowd. "A little bit of soft, salted butter on the table is the only other thing you need for a perfectly wonderful and decidedly French meal," she says.