Rooted in French country farm traditions, cassoulet is a staple in the French kitchen. And it's no different at Chicago's newest French Bistro, Chez Moi in Lincoln Park.
Cassoulet can be interpreted a few ways -- but there's always beans and pork. Dominique Tougne wants customers to feel comfortable at his Lincoln Park restaurant Chez Moi, occupying the space that once-housed the legendary Cafe Bernard.
"The idea behind Chez Moi is to create an atmosphere that people, when they come, they feel like they are coming in my house," Tougne said. "The goal is to make people feel comfortable."
Few things make hungry diners more comfortable in the cooler months -- assuming they're not vegetarians -- than a dish of cassoulet.
"I have been making cassoulet for my entire life," Tougne said. "It's really the rustic dish by excellence."
Tougne begins by heating up cooked white beans, embedded with tomatoes, onions, bacon, thyme and rosemary. Then he adds golf ball-sized hunks of lamb and giant discs of garlicky pork sausage.
"I was born in Alsace but I grew up in the southwest of France, and southwest - Toulouse - that's where this kind of cooking comes from," Tougne said.
He transfers everything to a cast iron skillet, and then adds the duck confit - that means duck slowly cooked and preserved in its own fat - which he crisps-up in the pan he used previously. Once the duck is crisp, it's added to the cast iron skillet, topped with bread crumbs and drizzled with olive oil. Finally, into a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
"Slow cooking, but easy cooking," Tougne said. "There is no cream, there is no butter in this dish; it's only the thickness of the beans that make it creamy and of course the meat is really hot. It's a dish that you definitely want to eat fall and winter. But in Chicago you can have almost year-round."
This time of year, customers can find seafood stew, braised chicken and duck confit at Chez Moi.
2100 N. Halsted St.