Traditional cassoulet is a hearty, rustic dish that combines several types of meat with beans and duck confit, duck that is slowly cooked in its own fat. However, since most home cooks don’t have the time to make duck confit, here is a simplified version of cassoulet takes a few well-advised shortcuts.
- 1 1/2 lb. (750 g) pork sausages
- 2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
- 5 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4 cans (15 oz./470 g each) cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 can (14 1/2 oz./455 g) diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 cup (2 oz./60 g) fresh bread crumbs (optional)
- 4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Slit each sausage diagonally several times on each side. In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the sausages and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 Tbs. oil to the fry pan, add the bacon and sauté until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Drain off all but 2 Tbs. fat from the pan, adding some olive oil if necessary. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beans and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes. Stir in the bacon, thyme, tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter a 3-qt (3-l) baking dish and distribute the sausages evenly in the dish. Spoon the bean mixture over the sausages. If desired, spread the bread crumbs on top and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake until the beans are bubbly and the crumb topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma One Pot of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2012)