In my article of 7 November 2009 entitled Memorable cassoulet [display], I may have misled readers at the level of the illustration. It wasn't a photo of a cassoulet that I myself had actually prepared, but rather an image that accompanied the cassoulet recipe I had found on the web. If I refrained from showing you a photo of my own cassoulet, at the moment I wrote that blog, this was mainly because my production was stored away in the freezer in three or four Pyrex dishes.
The photo I borrowed was excellent in that it shows clearly the various ingredients: beans in a light tomato sauce, fragments of pork ribs, Toulouse sausages and pieces of duck confit. [Click here for an explanation of the latter product. If, instead of paying a fortune for duck confit in cans, you wish to learn from a US website how to prepare it yourself, then click here.] But that photo was slightly misleading, too, for a reason I shall now explain. The final stage in the preparation of a dish of casssoulet, just prior to its being served, consists of smothering it in bread crumbs and baking it until the sauce starts to bubble up through the crust. In other words, when the dish of cassoulet is placed upon the dining table, it's not particularly photogenic, since you can't really see any of its ingredients, which remain hidden beneath the brown crust of bread crumbs.
There's yet another reason why I preferred to borrow that photo I found on the web. It's almost sacrilegious to present diners with a cassoulet that is not served up in the familiar brown ceramic earthenware dish used traditionally down in Gascony. Here in the Dauphiné, I was totally incapable of finding this kind of cooking dish in supermarkets or crockery shops. It was only yesterday, after having used the web to track down a producer of ovenware, that I finally obtained several beautiful specimens of handmade dishes for cassoulet.
The pottery firm Digoin, located in Burgundy, dates from 1875... but they've never got around to dealing directly with retail customers. Besides, their French website [display] remains rather rudimentary. Here's a presentation of some of their typical earthenware products:
One of their specialties is this splendid old-fashioned vinegar jug:
Finally, I had to order my Digoin cassoulet dishes through a crockery shop in Saint-Marcellin. The amazing thing is that the beautiful handmade cassoulet dishes (each of which comes in its own unique shades of brown) were not particularly expensive: less than ten euros each. I'm amazed and thrilled to discover that ancient manufacturers of this kind still exist in the modern world.
Now, having said all this, I must point out that I'm still not ready to show you a photo of a steaming Digoin dish of Gamone cassoulet. The reason, this time, is that cassoulet is simply not on my personal menu for the next few days, since my refrigerator is stocked with lots of fresh food that I must eat before starting to take stuff out of my freezer. Besides, as you might have gathered, a dish such as cassoulet—combining beans, sausages, pork and duck—is primarily a tasty and tempting source of calories to be consumed (washed down with red Bordeaux) when it's freezing outside. Today, the weather at Gamone is quite mild: not nearly chilly enough for cassoulet.