Cassoulet of Gigantes Beans and Sausage

March 9, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I’ve never made cassoulet before – the recipes always scared me away in the number of ingredients and complexity.  So when I saw how simple this one looked, I thought I’d try it.  It’s not your traditional cassoulet, but it’s delicious nonetheless. (I have to laugh at how different the dish looks in the magazine – ah, what food stylists can do!)

I served the cassoulet with Corfu Salad, which is always a refreshing counterpoint to something rich.  A nice light Cotes du Rhone or Beaujolais complement this rich and smokey dish beautifully.

The Cassoulet

3 cups dried gigante, corona, or large lima beans

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

4 fresh hot Italian sausage links (about a pound) – I used turkey

1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half rounds

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, crushed with your hands

7 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Breadcrumb Topping

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs – I used whole wheat

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Preparing the Cassoulet

Place beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Drain the beans. Add fresh water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender but not mushy, 1 1/2–2 hours (time will vary depending on size and age of beans). Drain, reserving 1 cup bean broth.  This can be done up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 450°. Heat a small amount of the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.  When cool, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices and set aside.

Place 2 Tbsp. oil, leek, and onion in the same pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and anchovies (if using); stir 1 minute to break down anchovies. Add tomato paste and paprika; stir constantly until paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add reserved 1 cup bean broth, beans, chicken broth, and next 4 ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Cover and bake until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add the sausage (and any accumulated juices) to the pot, pressing to submerge. Bake, uncovered, until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, 45-60 minutes longer.  Keep an eye on this so it doesn’t get too dried out.

Preparing the Breadcrumb Topping & Finishing the Cassoulet

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans and drizzle with remaining 3 Tbsp. oil. Bake cassoulet until breadcrumbs are browned and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. Sprinkle parsley and lemon zest over just before serving.

Cook’s Notes:  Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. I would not put this recipe in the “difficult” category, but it does take time.  I made the beans on a Saturday and cooked the cassoulet on Sunday.  It was a fun project with really great results!  Spanish Paprika (Pimenton) is available now at a lot of different supermarkets.  Look for the red tin for the imported stuff, or you can buy/order from Penzey’s.  It’s delicious in a lot of things, so you won’t regret buying it!  Gigantes (aka Gigandes) beans might also be hard to find.  We have a great Greek market here that has them in bulk.  I found what looks to be an interesting mail order resource for all things beans – they carry Gigantes. They are worth seeking out for their creamy texture and great mouth appeal.

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