As temperatures sink to single digits and a blizzard approaches, there are certain precautions to be taken. Layer up with woolly sweaters. Reacquaint yourself with friends who have fireplaces or at least big space heaters. And line the stomach with a hearty cassoulet.
Philippe Bertineau’s version at Benoit ($29) has earned a place in the one-pot dish hall of fame, even — the Universal Academy of Cassoulet in Carcassonne. Yes, there is an entire institution dedicated to this dish — in France, of course — of which Bertineau is one of five ambassadors around the globe and the only one in the United States.
It’s easy to see why the dish impressed the tasting committee so much — it’s classically prepared, with plump white Tarbais beans, duck leg and breast, pork sausage, cured ham and various other pig parts. It’s a labor of love and expertise that takes Bertineau three days to make. “The recipe at Benoit is traditional and rich, and there are a few things that are very important,” Bertineau says. “I never add salt, because the pork, hog and duck confit add so much flavor on their own.” He adds that pig ears are his favorite ingredient — a crunchy secret weapon for texture.
Benoit is the NYC recreation of the landmark century-old Parisian restaurant, currently owned by superchef Alain Ducasse. Serving classic Parisian bistro food, the Midtown outpost opened in 2008, an authentic forerunner to the bistro boom that followed, staying true to Gallic classics, from escargot with garlic and parsley butter ($22/dozen) to onion soup gratinee ($13) and quenelles de brochet ($25).