MaMou’s Red Bean Cassoulet

A new French Quarter restaurant reimagines a comfort classic

Photo: Sam Hanna

“I have always loved this building,” says Tom Branighan, the executive chef of new restaurant MaMou on North Rampart Street, in New Orleans. “There’s something so inviting about an old corner-store space in the French Quarter.” 

The darling one-room spot, which formerly housed Meauxbar, received a refresh with splashes of fuchsia and emerald green courtesy of the design team Jennie West and Jason Richards of Studio West. Thickets of faux flowers now dangle from the ceiling of the intimate, forty-two-seat room, and a long stretch of custom wine refrigerators spans the front wall. Those are the domain of Branighan’s business partner, the sommelier Molly Wismeier, formerly of Restaurant R’evolution.

photo: Sam Hanna
Inside MaMou.

The duo has created a space in MaMou that testifies to both of their careers, with Wismeier contributing a grand list of enviable bottles and a rotating, Coravin-poured selection of rare labels, and Branighan nodding to his culinary journey—from Emeril’s New Orleans, to the Culinary Institute of America, to the Michelin-rated Café Boulud and Bouley in New York City, as well as Lacroix in Philadelphia—with the bill of fare. 

“We have many straightforward, French plates on the menu like the poisson a la Florentine, which comes with a caviar beurre blanc,” Branighan says of MaMou, which is named for his great-grandmother. “However, we also wanted to imagine the city through a new lens. What would our dishes look like if we had stayed a territory of France?”

Those reimaginations include the Gulf fish “Court Bouillon” with oyster dressing and rouille, and his best-selling starter: braised celery hearts with smoked beef tongue. “I think it’s the most interesting dish on the menu,” Branighan says. “Our bar washes whiskey in butter. We then take that butter back and emulsify it with tomato. It’s a sauce poured over the smoked beef tongue pastrami, atop a celery that we get a nice sear on before braising in celery and tomato broth.”

But perhaps the most comforting dish to emerge from this old-world French gastronomy meets hearty, rustic Louisiana ingredients is the red bean cassoulet. For the unctuous, savory, creamy dish, the beans get braised slow and low until barely al dente, releasing hard-earned nuances of pickling juice and hot sauce, and then topped with toasted crumbles of cornbread.

“I developed this dish over about two years of the pandemic,” Branighan explains. “We would have friends over, socially distanced, of course. Making red beans is just something you do in New Orleans. Whenever I cook them, I like to make cornbread with pickled jalapeños on the side. Then, I season the red beans with the pickling juice. We make our beans a little soupier, like a traditional cassoulet. I decided to put it on the menu, and I was speaking to someone and trying to figure out how to finish it. That person suggested doing slices of headcheese on top. It made complete sense, as the headcheese sort of slowly melts into the red beans.”

That’s how Branighan serves the cassoulet at MaMou, but he notes that headcheese is not necessary for the at-home version, which he shares below. If you can get to a specialty meat shop for a few, thin slices of it, though, you won’t regret the effort. 


  • New Orleans–Style Red Bean Cassoulet (Yield: 6 to 8 servings)

    • 1 lb. red kidney beans

    • Olive oil

    • 1 lb. pickled pork, small to medium diced

    • 2 large Spanish onions, medium diced

    • 2 large green bell peppers, medium diced, seeds removed

    • 2 large celery stalks, medium diced

    • 1 cup tomato paste

    • 1 cup dry sherry

    • 1 cup dry white wine

    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder

    • 1 tbsp. onion powder

    • 2 bay leaves

    • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

    • 2–2½ quart pork stock

    • 1–2 tbsp. Crystal Hot Sauce

    • 1–2 tbsp. pickled jalapeño juice

    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled (do not crush to peel)

    • ½ cup unsalted butter

    • 3 cups fresh cornbread, dried in the oven overnight on the lowest setting

    • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Soak beans in a 6-quart container covered in water overnight. Drain the next day.

  2. In a wide, shallow pan (aka a rondeau), heat a splash of olive oil over high heat; when the oil just begins to smoke, start searing the pickled pork in batches to maintain the heat of the pan. Once browned, dump pork into a perforated pan or colander to separate the meat from the fat (reserve both). Turn the heat off until the next step so that the glaze on the bottom of the pan does not burn.

  3. Add onions to the pan and turn the heat back on to medium-high. Caramelize the onions first, and then add the peppers and celery. Sweat for 10 minutes.

  4. Add tomato paste and combine. Turn the heat to low, continuously stirring to develop a crimson color. 

  5. Deglaze the pan with sherry and white wine. Cook on low until alcohol aroma is gone, stirring occasionally.

  6. Add soaked beans, garlic powder, onion powder, bay leaves, and paprika, and cover with almost the entire 2 quarts of pork stock, reserving 1 pint as needed at the end.

  7. Bring up to a boil and lightly season with salt and pepper. (Do not fully season now. Your liquid will reduce and concentrate the flavor, and you want to avoid potentially over-salting the braise.)

  8. Cover the pan with a lid and braise the beans in an oven preheated to 350°F for 1½ hours. (The indirect heat will keep your beans from burning on the bottom.)

  9. After 1½ hours, remove the pan from the oven. Add pork, stir, season a little more, and return to the oven for another 1½ hours.

  10. After 3 total hours of cooking, remove beans and check doneness. Beans should be tender and without any crunch but still have subtle texture while yielding to gentle pressure. Check liquid thickness as well. Add stock as needed. Cook until done. (Note: As the liquid becomes more viscous, it becomes more difficult for the bean to soak in moisture. A little more stock can help. Always add in small quantities. You can always add more, but it’s difficult to take it out. Keep in mind that you will add hot sauce and jalapeño juice at the end for seasoning. Best to keep it on the thicker side.)

  11. Season with Crystal Hot Sauce and jalapeño juice. (Note: Here, you are seasoning for acid, not spice. With the right amount of acid, there should be a pleasant but not unpalatable amount of heat.) With a microplane or fine cheese grater, grate the garlic cloves into the beans and then stir in butter until fully combined. 

  12. In a food processor, buzz the dried cornbread to create medium-fine breadcrumbs.

  13. Spoon the beans into a heat-safe bowl or casserole dish and sprinkle the beans with the crumbs until fully covered. Place into a 450°F oven and bake until golden brown.