Originally a simple peasant dish, cassoulet has, in the best French culinary tradition, been endlessly complicated to where it has become a 2-day project. This version, assembled mostly from pre-cooked ingredients, returns cassoulet to its humble roots.
If you read the recipe I posted last December you may recall that I recommended avoiding smoked sausages like kielbasa. Necessity has led me to recant. (I would still avoid store-bought kielbasa because it usually is really nasty.) I had some lovely smoked chorizo from Sunny Hill Farm that was threatening to succumb to freezer burn and some homemade smoked bacon that was nearing old age so I used both. Duck confit is traditional in cassoulet but, alas, I had none so this version is poultry-free. The beans are from the double batch I made the other day when I made Tuscan salad and the tomato sauce is the extra I made for yesterday’s eggplant parmesan. You could use canned for either or both. And, to make the dish gluten-free I made the crust with corn flakes instead of bread crumbs. Use whichever suits your table. Note, by the way, that quick is a relative term. Set aside about an hour to make this dish.
Serves four or more
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 or 5 ounces slab bacon, diced, or thick-sliced bacon, chopped
- 12 ounces smoked chorizo, sliced into ½-inch rounds
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 (or more to taste) cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound (cooked weight) cannellini or other white beans
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- Cooking liquid from the beans, or water, as needed
- ½ tsp. each dried thyme, savory, parsley, and marjoram or oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2½ cups corn flakes
- ½ teaspoon each thyme and oregano
Pour the olive oil into a small Dutch oven (I use a 3-quart one) over medium heat and render the bacon until crispy and browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, reserving the extra.
Working in batches, brown the sausage well in a single layer. Remove and set aside.
Let the pot cool a bit then set over medium-low heat, adjust the fat, and cook the onion and garlic, stirring from time to time, until soft and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Return the meats to the pot along with the beans. Pour on the tomato sauce and enough bean cooking liquid or water to just cover. Stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes to meld the flavors.
While the cassoulet is simmering, preheat the oven to 350°. Put the corn flakes, thyme, and oregano into the food processor and reduce to a coarse meal. Spread over the top of the cassoulet, pressing down gently with the back of a large spoon so that the juices moisten them. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a crust forms. (Traditionally the crust is supposed to be broken and allowed to reform 7 times!) Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.