October 10, 2019

Screen shot 2019-10-06 at 4.32.09 PMAwhile ago I wrote about the challenges of our tenant (whom I have called Julien) in the kitchen.

Let the record show that Julien redeemed himself, a week before his return to France, by preparing a cassoulet.

I have eaten cassoulet a few times at Le Select Bistro on Wellington street in Toronto. I don’t remember ever seeing it on a menu in France. This may be because cassoulet comes from Toulouse, as does Julien. We thought Julien to be crazy, to attempt such a dish. The Silver Palate cookbook notes that, “cassoulet is neither quick nor inexpensive to prepare.” Somewhat more encouraging is the next sentence: “It is not a dish for only the most experienced cook, though, and the various steps can be spread over 3 or 4 days.”

I don’t know why, but Julien’s travails in the kitchen always make me think of the old Dr. Seuss rhyme in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: “We took a look. We saw a Nook. On his head, he had a hook. On his hook he had a book. On his book was ‘How To Cook.’ But a Nook can’t read so a Nook can’t cook. So what good to a Nook is a hook cook book?”

At any rate, Julien did not need a cook book, since his relatives in France are just a phone call away. My spouse and I rode our bicycles with Julien to St. Lawrence Market to shop for ingredients. There is a dry goods store in the market basement that we call “the rabbit warren” for its maze of narrow aisles between tall shelves crammed with every variety of pasta, nut, chocolate, bean and grain. Julien contactd his Mamie (grandmother) and mother in Toulouse, via his cell phone, and then texted them photos of each of the bins of white beans, as he strove to select the correct ones. (The Silver Palate suggests, “Try Great Northern, or half Great Northern and half dried flageolets.”) He also spent $50 on two cans of duck confit. On Sunday our kitchen filled with rich aromas as Julien spent hours bent over the stove, his long hair in a pony tail and his consultants coming in via Facetime from France.

IMG_2481The cassoulet proved very palatable; our son, who rarely eats seconds, ate two helpings.

The next day, in case we’d be worried Julien would take on airs in the kitchen, he returned to earth, smearing corn tortillas with peanut butter for lunch. Bon appetit!