‘Stew’, from Middle French haricot, a deverbal derivation of Old French harigoter (“to shred, slice up, slice into pieces”), from Frankish *hariōn (“to ruin, lay waste, ravage, plunder, destroy”), from Proto-Germanic *harjōną (“to plunder, lay waste, harry”).
In the sense ‘bean’, etymology uncertain. Influenced in form by the ‘stew’ word, if not originally identical to it; in that case possibly from Mexican Spanish ayacotli, ayacote, or possibly from Calicut. – Wikitionary
I have been eagerly awaiting my 1950’s cassolle to arrive from Toulouse so I can bust out an old school French cassoulet before the cold snap permanently leaves us. Cassoulet is decidedly a cold weather dish, almost an antithesis to Spring’s light dishes punctuated by fresh morels and tender young artichokes. Over the past few days I have been pouring over several old books comparing cassoulets from different eras. Thirteen cookbooks later and I am left with almost as many questions of what constitutes an authentic cassoulet as the hapless person researching “real” bouillabaisse recipes in Marseille.
A snowy day followed by light misting rains and a significant drop in temperature caused this mornings Ice-ageddon in Oregon City, Oregon. There was no going to work unless I wanted to risk sliding down our two block long hill sideways, spinning past several neighbors’ cars onto busy streets that were not guaranteed to be in any better condition. Beau and I headed down the hill on foot to reconnoitre. Me clutching fearfully to any tree strong enough to hold my weight as I inched down the iced slope in sheer terror. Beau repeatedly prancing then falling down face first on the frozen surface in contagious fits of laughter only a five year old with absolutely no fear of dying could mutter. After safely returning to the comfort of home I decided to make Haricot, an old 17th century French stew of lamb and beans. The perfect cure to an otherwise cold and dreary Winter day. Most people think haricot only means beans in French. Haricot, or harigoter in old French, meant ‘cut up’, implying a stew of cut up meat. Throughout the ages, Haricot went from a country stew made with whatever meats, vegetables and beans one had on hand to an almost cassoulet-like dish comprised mostly of beans dotted with chunks of tender meat. In my cassoulet research I kept coming across Haricot. I settled on my version of Madame E. Sainte-Ange’s recipe from Paul Aratow’s excellent translation of her French home cookbook, La Bonne Cuisine. Its an easy dish that requires very little effort or ability other than pretending to be stirring while actually gobbling up the delicious sauce as it gently simmers for four hours. If your kids are anything like mine they will devour it in seconds.
- for the beans
- 1 cup white beans
- pinch Chinese five spice
- 1/2 bay leaf
- for the lamb stew
- 1/4 cup of duck or pork fat
- 1 pound lamb osso buco or shank
- 2 sliced onions, peeled and sliced
- 8 very thin carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 ribs of celery, washed and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, mashed
- 3 ounces smoked lamb bacon or pork bacon
- 3 San Marzano tomatoes, crushed in your hands
- If you are smarter than me and began this dish withthe foresight of actually intending on preparing it the day before soak your beans over night covered in cold water.
- If you decided at the last minute to make this after realizing you can’t drive to work put the white beans in a pan with Chinese five spice and half a bay leaf.
- Cover with cold water and bring to a rapid boil. Turn off and let sit covered for one hour.
- Get ready for the hardest recipe of your life. Put duck fat into a large, heavy gauged pan.
- Top with lamb osso buco, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and a frozen slab of lamb bacon you forgot about.
- Saute over moderate heat for twenty minutes stirring often to prevent any scorching of the bottom.
- Remove bacon and dice. If you are smarter than I you could simply add diced bacon to the mix in the beginning.
- Add San Marzano tomatoes, beans and cover with water.
- Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for four hours.
- Due to the complexity of the dish, frequently take tastes and pretend to do something important. Any onlookers will marvel at your culinary dexterity and proclaim you a genius.
- Adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
- Optional: to show you how fluid my cooking style tends to be. I had a half a hot pepper leftover from my breakfast. It was screaming hot and even after cooking with it earlier I knew it still had plenty of kick. I dropped it into the haricot and it gave a beautiful slight, almost not perceptible heat to the dish.