Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the southwest of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, mutton, or goose), and white haricot beans.
Numerous regional variations exist, the most notable being from Castelnaudary, the self-proclaimed "Capital of Cassoulet," where the cassoulet contains only beans, pork, and the local sausages; from Carcassonne; and from Toulouse, where, if it is not cooked with spicy Toulouse sausage and confit of goose, it is not considered a traditional cassoulet Toulousain.
Cassoulet is most commonly consumed in France as a commercial product sold in cans in supermarkets and grocery stores. These cassoulets vary in price and quality. The cheapest ones contain only beans, tomato sauce, some cheap sausages, and some pieces of pork — duck and goose are expensive and thus are absent from such preparations. More expensive versions are likely to be cooked with goose fat and to include Toulouse sausages, lamb, goose, or duck confit.
Haute cuisine versions require mixing pre-cooked roasted meats with beans that have been simmered separately with aromatic vegetables, but this runs counter to cassoulet's peasant origins. The dish is named after the cassole, the distinctive oval covered earthenware pot in which cassoulet is ideally cooked. In the process of preparing the dish it is traditional to deglaze the pot from the previous cassoulet in order to give a base for the next one. This has led to stories, almost certainly aprocyphal, of a single original cassoulet being extended for years or even decades. The American poet, writer, and raconteur Maya Angelou tells of serving a cassoulet to the food writer and connoisseur M. F. K. Fisher prepared in new pots — but still with great success ("M.F.K. Fisher and A White Bean Feast" in Hallelujah! The Welcome Table).