Within the villages of the Languedoc in south-western France, cassoulet is an argument in addition to a meal. Folks might agree it’s a humble stew of white beans and meats, cooked in an earthenware vessel. Past that, it’s up for debate.
Some will embrace sausage, duck, pork and its rind. Others add mutton, goose, even partridge. Many recipes name for breadcrumbs, however some cooks suppose that’s sacrilege. They most likely concur on one side, although: cassoulet is a rib-sticking winter dish.
Let me say this to each French gourmand: beware Balnarring in summer season, the place Australians name for cassoulet whilst their cheeks are tinged with sunburn.
You see this phenomenon at Le Bouchon, a pleasant French bistro that hit the spot when it opened as a 30-seater 10 years in the past. Three years later, its tenancy was renovated and it’s now a thrumming 80-seat website of Gallic appeal within the Mornington Peninsula city’s enterprise park.
On the porch and contained in the eating room with its bentwood chairs and wood-panelled bar, individuals “monsieur” and “madame” their approach by way of a traditional eating expertise that rollicks and garlicks in all the fitting locations.
Proprietor Stephane Saleres is from cassoulet nation in Gascony. He labored for celeb chef Antony Worrall Thompson in London earlier than shifting to Australia, managing a restaurant on Hayman Island, then settling in Melbourne and dealing at south-side establishments Chez Bob and France-Soir.
His imaginative and prescient right here is analogous. Along with longtime chef Antoine Corre (from Brittany, ex-Bistro Guillaume, not afraid of butter), and a very good group, they hit all the fitting notes from freshly shucked oysters to house-made pâté to the kitchen’s personal crisp, fluffy profiteroles.
Pork terrine is laced with rooster liver, port and prunes to create a beautiful stability of candy and bitter, succulent and soused.
There’ll be “tartare de poisson” as a particular: mine was sea bream, chopped by way of parsley oil and served with Nicoise olive tapenade. You’ll discover exemplary snails, steak frites and creme brulee.
And what of the cassoulet? It’s a charmer, made in batches and assembled in an earthen dish to create a manageable bistro serve. The cannellini beans have soaked up meaty juices however nonetheless have chunk. There are roasted pork stomach, pork sausage and confit duck, gently tinged with tomato and pastis.
Le Bouchon is one among few Peninsula eating places busy all yr, partly as a result of it presents BYO on Tuesday and Wednesday ($15), but additionally as a result of the service is sensible and completed.
Palms are shaken, unhealthy schoolgirl French is praised and youngsters are indulged. Most significantly, the place runs like a fantastic machine, its engine tuned to hospitality. It appears like a room filled with smiles.