I have made many cassoulets over the years. I blogged about Julia Child’s lentil cassoulet here. Most cassoulets have several kinds of meats. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia explains that several regions of France claim that their version is the only authentic version. Toulousains claim that it must include preserved goose, confit d’oie, or it is not a real cassoulet. Some say that the cassoulet was born in Castelnaudary and should only include beans, pork,and sausage. The recipe that she includes in “Mastering” includes pork loin, shoulder of lamb and sausages. The one thing that all cassoulets have in common is the beans. They all include white beans, except the lentil cassoulet that I made previously. A true cassoulet starts with dry white beans and can take days to make.
When I saw the recipe for Quick Cassoulet in Cooking Light ( I know, I know . . . . seems like everything I cook lately comes from that source), I knew I had to make it. Every cassoulet is basically baked beans with meat added. What makes it special is the flavor in the liquid in the dish. When you saute onions, carrots, garlic and celery to soften and then add white wine and cognac to the pan, you are bound to end up with a tasty base. Using canned cannellini beans shortens the cooking time and a finishing touch of butter moistened bread crumbs finishes the dish.
In this dish the only meat is sausage. I will present the recipe as written, but you can use any type of sausage that you prefer. I used a fresh turkey sausage and a smoked turkey sausage mixture. You could even add leftover shredded chicken or pork.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (4-inch) pork sausages, sliced (about 8 ounces)
4 (4-inch) lamb sausages, sliced (D’Artagnan is a good source)
4 (4-inch) duck sausages, sliced (Again D’Artagnan)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
5 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt added diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4 ounce) piece French bread baguette
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven 325 degrees F. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausages; cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. ( I had to do this in batches) Remove sausages from pan using a slotted spoon; drain. Wipe pan with paper towels, leaving browned bits on bottom of pan. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and next 5 ingredients (through salt); cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and cognac; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
Place thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and cloves on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Add cheesecloth bag, broth, beans, and tomatoes to vegetable mixture; stir to combine. Return sausages to pan; stir. Bring mixture to a boil, and remove from heat. ( At this point I transferred the mixture to a casserole, but if you are using an attractive Dutch oven leave it alone).
Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until fine crumbs measure 2 cups. Melt butter in a large skiller over medium-high heat. Add crumbs to pan; saute 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over bean mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Discard cheesecloth bag before serving.