Last Thursday, I was sitting at my desk, busy trying to get through a whole pile of work before heading home. In the rain. Again. And thinking, what to make for dinner? Yet again, I had failed to plan out a menu for the week, let alone do my shopping for the week. So there I was, brainstorming recipes while trying to wrap up some work. And coming up blank on the recipe front. Luckily for me, Patrick was slow and heading out a little early, and offered to head to the grocery store: “Just send me a grocery list in a few minutes.” Awesome. But in a few minutes? I have absolutely no idea what to make!
Clearly, I needed a little help from the interwebs. After poking around online for a couple minutes, I found a recipe for Vegetarian Cassoulet on Gourmet’s website. It looked promising. Very promising. Stewed vegetables and beans, along with some crispy breadcrumbs, to enjoy on a cold night? Yes, please.
But the recipe just felt like it was missing something. Something crucial. With only a few minutes to come up with my grocery list, I felt a little like I was on one of those cooking competition shows. You only have 5 minutes! To cook dinner for 500 people! Ok, well, it wasn’t quite like that. But you get the idea.
So what did this dish need? Well, a cassoulet is a kind of thick, bean stew that usually has meat in it. Without the meat, I felt this dish needed something to add some richness. Something to make it a little heartier. How about some San Marazano tomatoes? Perfect. And a little butter? Yum. Plus some more fresh herbs—rosemary in addition to the thyme and parsley? Bingo. This sounded like a pretty awesome dish in the making. And now the grocery list was done. Check.
By the time I came home from work, Patrick was back with the groceries. And the cassoulet proved surprisingly easy to throw together. Chop a few vegetables. Make some breadcrumbs. Let everything stew together for about 30 minutes. And you’ve got a very delicious meal that tastes like you spent all day cooking it, slaving over a hot stove. But you didn’t. You made it in less than an hour after work, thanks to a very awesome helper who went to the grocery store for you. It doesn’t get much better than that.
But the best part, really, is just how yummy this meal is. It was so good. So, so good. The tomatoes, butter, and rosemary all proved to be key additions that made this dish really fabulous. And the recipe makes enough for 4-6 people, so it would be great for a dinner party. Or you can just enjoy some really awesome leftovers for lunch the next day. We sure did. Dare I say it was even better the next day?
Adapted, in a bunch of ways, from Gourmet
Serves 4-6 as a main
For the cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise and cut into cut into 1/4 inch pieces (see photos)
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (see photos)
3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into cut into 1/4 inch pieces (see photos)
4 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs (approximate)
3 fresh rosemary sprigs (approximate)
1 bay leaf
2-3 cups mild vegetable broth or low sodium chick broth
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marazanos, chopped (with their juices)
3 cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons butter (preferably unsalted)
fresh parley leaves, chopped, for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper
For the breadcrumbs
1 rustic baguette
2 tablespoons butter (preferably unsalted)
Rinse the leeks very well and drain. Meanwhile, heat a couple splashes of olive in a large pot of dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery, along with some salt and pepper (to taste). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring a few times. Next, add the beans, 2 cups of broth, thyme and rosemary sprigs, bay leaf, and chopped San Marazanos, along with all their juices. Stir to combine, and simmer over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable are soft and tender, and the cassoulet is rich and thick. If at any point you feel that the cassoulet is drying out, add some more both. However, the cassoulet should be very thick—not watery or even with a soup-like consistency. Remove the bay leaf, and the stems from the thyme and rosemary sprigs (the leaves will have fallen off during the cooking process). At this point, taste for seasonings, and season with salt and pepper (to taste).
While the cassoulet is simmering away, make your breadcrumbs. Tear the baguette into pieces, and toss in a food processor (see photo). Process until coarse crumbs are formed. Use about 2-3 heaping cups of the breadcrumbs—this is approximate—for the cassoulet, and reserve the remaining breadcrumbs for another use.* Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Remove from heat, and stir in the breadcrumbs, along with a pinch of salt, until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated in the butter. Spread the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet, and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, tossing them once or twice with a spatula, until golden brown. Set aside.
Divide the cassoulet among bowls. Top with a handful of breadcrumbs and fresh, chopped parsley leaves. Enjoy!
* I used the remaining breadcrumbs to make this pasta the next night. This time, I used red onion instead of yellow onion, and it was so very good. I need to start making this dish more often—it’s an awesome quick and easy weeknight dinner.