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Jimmy’s No. 43 Sixth Annual Cassoulet Cook-off

Cassoulet displayDisplay of Cassoulet at Jimmy’s No. 43

This past Sunday was the Sixth Annual Cassoulet Cook-off at Jimmy’s No. 43, an event where amateur and professional chefs go knife-to-knife to create one of France’s iconic and heart-warming dishes.  Jimmy had invited me to be a judge for this feast again this year, which I happily accepted to do, and joined Jackie Gordon from The Diva That Ate New York, Margaret Chen from Savory Sweet Living, Nancy Matsumoto, and Amy Zavatto and Ariel Lauren Wilson of Edible Manhattan in tasting and evaluating the various cassoulets.

Judges making their decisionsWorking out the winners

As in past years, the entrants demonstrated numerous variations on the bean-and-meat-stew format.  Six cooks created cassoulets which the attendees walked around and sampled.  Tickets to the event also included one beverage from the bar with which to wash down all that rich, hearty food.  This gathering raised over $2,000 to go to The Greenmarket‘s regional grains initiative.  Here’s a look at the dishes and their cooks:

Gilbert Clerget - bowl of cassouletCassoulet de Castelnaudary by Gilbert Clerget

Gilbert Clerget and his wife Rebecca made the trip north from Washington, DC to contribute their Cassoulet de Castelnaudary to the tastings.  His version, as he explained, reflected more the southwest of France in the Languedoc region.  The dish featured Stachowski Brand Charcuterie from Georgetown, including their Toulouse Sausage made with tarragon.

Patrick Clark - bowl of cassouletPatricia Clark‘s classic-style cassoulet

Studded with velvety, succulent chunks of duck confit, which she made, as well as duck bacon that she also made, pork, beans, and layers of flavors, returning contributor and caterer Patricia Clark‘s dedication to this dish was evident.  She told us that she’d spent the past year researching cassoulet in its many incarnations before coming up with her version, reviewing over 100 recipes for this dish before developing her own rendition.

Nourish Kitchen cassouletCassoulet with Kale by Nourish Kitchen + Table

The team from Nourish Kitchen + Table created a version of cassoulet that had pork butt, proscuitto, and housemade duck confit along with kale to give it a bit of a healthy kick.  They topped their selection with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs with pork cracklings to contrast the creamy beans.

Mighty Quinn's - Burnt Ends and BeansBeans and Burnt Ends by Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

Neighborhood barbecue joint, Mighty Quinn’s chipped in some of their Beans and Burnt Ends.  With its smoky, meaty, porkiness, this is a more American take on the French classic.  As the judges noted in their round-up of the cook-off, this dish is available to try all year around at their store, not just in the cold winter months of peak cassoulet season.

David Navarro - Jimmy's No 43 House CassouletSausage & Beans with Chicharrones by David Navarro

Jimmy’s No. 43 house chef David Navarro contributed a batch of cassoulet with a more Latin twist to it.  He made a batch of Sausage and Beans topped with chicharrones, or crispy fried pork skins, creating a contrast between the hearty beans, smoky meat, and crunchiness of the topping.

American-style cassoulet plateAmerican-style Cassoulet by Annette Tomei

Beer-braised pork shoulder cassoulet plateBeer-braised Pork Shoulder and Beans by Annette Tomei

Plate of Vegetarian CassouletVegetarian Cassoulet by Annette Tomei

[By way of full disclosure, I assisted her with the prep for this and several of the dishes that folks sampled on Sunday.]

Annette Tomei, owner of VinEducation and one of my former instructors at the International Culinary Center, was the featured chef for Jimmy’s No. 43‘s Cassoulet & Beer and Cassoulet & Wine events during the past few days.  She whipped up several different styles of cassoulet for guests to nibble on on Sunday, including an American-style version using pinto beans mixed with shredded confit chicken, braised turkey wings, spicy sausage, and bacon ends topped with a panko-sage crumble, a Beans with Beer-braised Pork Shoulder, and even a Vegetarian Cassoulet with beans mixed in with roasted brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and butternut squash.  This latter version was a favorite of several of the attendees.

Jimmy Carbone thanking attendeesJimmy Carbone thanking cooks and guests

After guests had sampled the cassoulets and had taken some time to digest and to decide on their favorites, Jimmy Carbone took to the stage in the back room to thank everyone for coming to this event and to garner a round of applause for all the cooks.  Then, he turned it over to the judges to reveal the results of the cook-off.  Jackie Gordon started off by recognizing the honorable mentions, including Annette Tomei’s “Best Vegetarian Cassoulet for Carnivores” and David Navarro’s “Best Use of Chicharrones in a Cassoulet.”  Then, the prizes were handed out.

Nourish Kitchen - pot of cassouletThird Place Winner: Nourish Kitchen

Patricia Clark - cassoulet displaySecond Place Winner: Patricia Clark

Gilbert & Rebecca ClergetFirst Place Winner: Gilbert Clerget with his wife Patricia

This year’s winner of the Cassoulet Cook-off is Gilbert Clerget with his Cassoulet de Castelnaudary.  It seems fitting that a Frenchman took the crown for 2014.  His cassoulet was also the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the cook-off, so the people and the judges were unanimous in their culinary decisions this year.  Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who cooked for us this Sunday!

Buon appetito!

“Jimmy and the Bean Trough: 6th Annual Cassoulet Cookoff at Jimmy’s No. 43″ from Edible Manhattan
(Article about my culinary events work at Jimmy’s No. 43 with VinEducation founder Chef Annette Tomei.)