02/24/2014 03:05 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2014

Improving a Winter Classic: The French Cassoulet

Joanne Camas

Who says you can't improve on a classic? Take cassoulet, for example, the hearty French stew that defies precise categorization. Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of NYC's Back Forty, is confident that the restaurant's cassoulet tasting event on March 9 will add delicious twists to the old favorite.

"The French have elevated cassoulet to mythical status, but expect many versions of the dish at this year's walk-around tasting. Look for a version with lentils and fire-roasted pork, an Asturian version called Fabada with the superlative Iberian bean, fabes alubias, a version brimming with Brooklyn Cured meats, and our home entry from Back Forty with Chef Mike Laarhoven's smoked lamb belly, andouille sausage, and duck confit," says Hoffman.

Laarhoven is one of six chefs taking part, and he's not surprised that the tasting is so popular among chefs and diners alike. "I think cassoulet endures for several reasons," he says. "The most obvious is that it's a beautiful, warm, stick-to-your-bones winter meal that can incorporate so many of our favorite foods. It's allowance for variation is important, which is really what our cassoulet event is about. It means something personal to so many people--who doesn't remember tasting their first cassoulet?"

So what does Laarhoven expect to see from the other chefs? "There's such wonderful pool of talent this year, that I wouldn't be doing them justice by guessing what they are planning. But I'm really looking forward to finding out."

Want to make your own cassoulet? Watch our video cooking class or jump right in to some cassoulet recipes.

See more from Epicurious:

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An Insider's Guide to Eating in New York

Top 10 Pizzas in America

The Great American Taco

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