So I made cassoulet for the first time the other night using a recipe from my Balthazar cookbook. Pretty much followed the recipe; however, I used bacon instead of pork belly and Northern white beans instead of the preferred Tarbais beans. Overall, I was really happy w/ the results...great winter dish...tasted exponentially better w/ each day. Still have 3 frozen duck confit legs so will make again soon and want to perfect this dish. My questions:
1) Tomato: Some recipes call for a bit of tomato paste, even diced tomatoes (eg, Balthazar) whereas other recipes do not (eg, Les Halles). I actually liked it w/ the paste and diced tomatoes, but was wondering if the tomato might overpower the beans. Next time, thinking of putting in the paste but not diced tomatoes and compensating by adding more broth. Thoughts, opinions?
2) Tarbais beans: I wanted to use these beans, but vetoed that idea when I saw them at a French import warehouse near SF for about $120/5 kilos (ouch!). Bought Northern beans instead at around $1.50/lb. and they were quite good. While I probably won't ever buy the Tarbais, was curious if anyone has tried them and what the dif. might be?
3) Wine: What wine pairs well w/ cassoulet? Had a German riesling hanging around the house, so thought it would probably go ok. Was pleasantly surprised at how well it complemented the dish, but was wondering what others favor?
Thanks for helping me to perfect this heavenly stew!