Cassoulet, Three Ways: Easy, Vegan, All Out

February 6, 2019 Updated: February 6, 2019

One of my favorite bean dishes, which I make a million ways. Flageolets—slightly green immature kidney beans—are just as fabulous as traditional Tarbes in the fairly traditional All Out recipe. For the simple Sausage Cassoulet, use whatever you have handy in a can or the freezer. For the vegetable-forward Vegan interpretation, lentils, a completely untraditional choice, work perfectly. For all, the goal is to let the beans cook until they start to break apart, which helps thicken the stew. And don’t skimp on the fat.

Sausage Cassoulet (Easy)

Makes 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 pounds mild Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 cup white wine or water (or bean-cooking liquid, if you’ve got it), plus more as needed
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (or two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 4 thick bread slices, any kind

Turn the broiler to high and position the rack 4 inches below it. Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the pieces until they’re no longer pink, 5 to 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the sausage sizzles and browns and the vegetables soften and become golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the thyme, a pinch of salt, and the cayenne. Stir once or twice, then add the wine. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until the liquid reduces by about half, just a couple minutes. Add the tomatoes and half the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily, and cook uncovered, stirring once in a while, until the stew thickens and darkens, 10 to 15 minutes.

Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces onto a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the broiler. Watch and shake the pan as necessary until the pieces brown in places. Remove and let cool.

Add the remaining beans to the pot and add more wine or water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the stew looks too thick. Stir until heated through, just a couple minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve, topped with the bread and a drizzle of olive oil.

Lentil Cassoulet With Lots of Vegetables (Vegan)

Makes 4 servings

Time: 50 minutes

  • 8 ounces Le Puy lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small celery root, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine or water
  • One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 small head green cabbage (about 8 ounces), quartered, cored, and cut into thin ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

Put the lentils in a large pot with enough water to cover by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, cover and turn off the heat; let the lentils sit.

Put the dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water. The mushrooms will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to soften. When they’re ready, lift them from the soaking liquid carefully to leave any grit behind; chop the mushrooms and reserve the liquid.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the leek, carrot, celery root, mushrooms, and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the wine, and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the vegetable mixture to the lentils along with the tomatoes, cabbage, and the herbs. Carefully pour in the mushroom soaking liquid, leaving behind the grit in the bottom of the bowl. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if the mixture starts to look dry, until the vegetables are silky and the lentils start to break down and thicken the stew, 25 to 35 minutes. Stir in the cayenne. Remove the bay leaf. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Pork Cassoulet With Seared Duck Breast (All Out)

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Time: At least 5 hours

  • 4 cups dried Tarbes, flageolet, Great Northern, or cannellini beans, rinsed and picked over
  • Small bunch fresh parsley, leaves and stems separated
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces mildly smoky slab bacon
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, cored, peeled if you like, and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 pound fresh pork sausage (like chipolata or breakfast-style; not Italian)
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 boneless duck breasts (about 1 pound each)

Put the beans in your largest ovenproof pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Wrap the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves, and allspice in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a bundle with string to make a bouquet garni.

Once the water boils, add the herb bundle and lower the heat so the water bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring every now and then, until the beans are tender and just starting to burst, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes depending on their type and age. As they cook, add water only as needed to keep them submerged by no more than an inch. When they’re ready, add a large pinch of salt, fish out the herbs, and remove the pot from the heat to sit, covered.

While the beans cook, cut the bacon into bite-sized chunks and put it in a small saucepan with enough water to cover; turn the heat to medium, and when the water boils, lower the heat to a gentle bubble. Cook until soft, stirring once or twice, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the pot of beans with a slotted spoon and discard the cooking liquid.

Sprinkle the pork cubes with salt and pepper. Put 2 tablespoons oil in another large pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the pork and cook, turning as necessary, until well browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 2 cups stock and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the tomatoes and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is fork-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning once or twice until well browned. Transfer the sausage to a cutting board and slice into 1-inch rounds (don’t bother to wash the pan; you will use it later to cook the duck breasts). Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop the parsley leaves. Stir the sausage and the pork mixture into the pot of beans. If the cassoulet seems too dry, add 1 cup or so more stock. Cover the top with the breadcrumbs and half of the chopped parsley leaves and bake, uncovered, until bubbly and crisp around the top and edges, 20 to 30 minutes.

When the cassoulet is ready, turn off the oven but leave the pot inside. Score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut into the flesh, and rub all over with lots of salt. Put the skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the breasts skin side down. Cook, undisturbed, until the breasts release easily from the pan and are deeply golden, 8 to 12 minutes. Turn, lower the heat so the fat sizzles, and cook until the centers are medium-rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat should read about 125 degrees F), 3 to 5 more minutes. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cassoulet from the oven. Slice the duck breasts on the diagonal and tuck them into the breadcrumbs; pour the drippings from the pan over the top, and serve, garnished with the remaining parsley.

Reprinted from “Dinner For Everyone.” Copyright © 2019 by Mark Bittman. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Aya Brackett. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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