First, I want to thank Heather for keeping the 3MBB ship afloat while I’ve been in the process of moving house. After a month and a half of house-sitting, packing, moving, and cooking in various kitchens, I’m finally settled into my new place. And of course, I am already getting excited to plan a housewarming dinner. What’s your favorite casual meal to make for a group?
Speaking of which, here’s the recipe for a cassoulet that I made at my brother’s house while I was between places. Not quite casserole, not quite stew, cassoulet is usually made with white beans and meat that is slow-cooked until it’s meltingly tender. This easy version shortens the cooking time significantly, but keeps the rich flavors intact.
I pulled a classic 3MBB move and made a vegetarian cassoulet recipe…with bacon. I also substituted black lentils (also called beluga or caviar lentils) for white beans, and the result was a beautiful, dark cassoulet that tasted subtle and rich, fresh and filling, at the same time.
Instead of baking breadcrumbs onto the top of the cassoulet, I served this with shaved parmesan, garlic croutons, warm sourdough bread (specially made for gluten-intolerant folks) and slices of French farmer’s cheese I bought at the Silver Lake cheese shop. Oh me oh my.
Easy Vegetable and Lentil Cassoulet
For lentils (make ahead or substitute with cooked beans):
- 4 big pieces bacon, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup lentils
- 2 cups chicken broth
Cook bacon on low heat in the bottom of a large pot until just beginning to crisp. Add garlic and saute on low heat with bacon until crisp. Add chicken broth and lentils and simmer, covered, until broth is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes). Stir occasionally. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Can be made ahead or cooked while prepping the vegetables for cassoulet.
- 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces (white and pale green parts only)
- 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- 2 cups chard, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 3 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- lentils (see below)
Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or sauce pan. Cook garlic cloves until just beginning to brown. Add leeks, carrots, and celery, and saute until vegetables are bright in color and crisp-tender. Add remaining ingredients (except for salt and pepper), and simmer until vegetables are cooked through and flavors combine. Stir occasionally, but be careful not to abrade the vegetables as they soften. When cassoulet is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garlic crumbs and shredded parmesan or gruyère cheese.
For garlic crumbs:
- 4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette (I used sourdough sweet basil bread from a special gluten-free bakery)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
Pre-heat oven to 350F. While cassoulet is cooking, cut bread into cubes or tear into small bits. Place in baking dish with olive oil and garlic, and toss thoroughly. Toast in top rack of oven, turning every couple of minutes, until croutons are golden-brown and crunchy, but not completely hard. Serve immediately.
Based on this recipe from Epicurious.