Three Bites: Cassoulet

Marilyn HawkesMarch 3, 2022
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Let them eat… white beans? Once a peasant staple, this ancient French casserole is a royal treat for Valley diners. 

Oak on Camelback

111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix

602-200-8111, oakoncamelback.com

Cassoulet’s origins date to the Late Middle Ages, when French peasants threw white beans and whatever else was lying around into a clay cooking vessel called a cassole, which gives the dish its name. The rustic, stew-like mélange has been a go-to favorite of chef Robert Bogart for many years, so when he opened Oak on Camelback in 2020, cassoulet ($18, pictured) made the cut. Bogart trades the clay pot for a cast iron pan plunged into the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, yielding a smoky, full-flavored dish that also includes roasted Roma tomatoes with garlic and thyme, a generous splash of Pinot Noir, caramelized pork sausage and duck confit topped with house-made breadcrumbs. Need an extra shot of protein? The kitchen will add a sunny-side-up egg that melts through the beans like warm butter ($3). Bogart’s cassoulet is so popular that when he tried taking it off the menu during warmer months, customers complained. “I put it back and don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.” 

The Farish House

816 N. Third St., Phoenix 

602-281-6659, farishhouse.com

Owner and executive chef Lori Hassler’s “cozy and comforting” Farish House cassoulet ($30) has been a menu mainstay since the restaurant’s debut on Roosevelt Row in 2019. To make the two-day dish, she simmers fleshy French Tarbais beans with onions, pancetta, tomato ragout and fresh thyme, then adds bits of slow-braised pork shoulder and Schreiner’s garlic-infused kielbasa. She then scatters house-made breadcrumbs on top with a smidgen of duck fat and gives the casserole a final bake to achieve a crunchy layer. The velvety bean stew mixed with meltingly tender pork could stand alone, but Hassler bumps it up a notch by perching a crispy confit duck leg (made by cooking the duck in its own fat) on top. “It’s really old-school cooking,” she says. “It does take a lot of time, but that’s where the flavor comes from.” 

Culinary Dropout

Five Valley locations

culinarydropout.com

Culinary Dropout is known for its hug-from-mom comfort food, so when its chefs teased cassoulet as a special, we jumped. Made with Great Northern beans soaked overnight, this dish also includes carrots, celery, onions and garlic cooked with bacon fat to add a whisper of smoke. Tickled with white wine, the bean mix simmers all day, giving it a creamy texture while keeping the beans intact. The cooks add charred artichoke hearts and sweet cipollini onions upon serving, and finish the dish with lemon juice, butter and fresh herbs. “It’s a way for us to take a classic dish that might be looked at as something cheaper or less sexy and do something really cool with it,” says culinary operations director Taylor Domet. CD’s swoon-worthy bean cassoulet isn’t currently on the menu, but it’s up for consideration. We’ll be waiting.

Photography by Angelina Aragon
Photography by Angelina Aragon

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