Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spicy Italian Sausage Cassoulet


My husband has declared it sausage week over here. I don't quite know how it happened. Maybe it had something to do with my state of mind during that crazed grocery shopping trip last week. But somehow sausage has been the main course at our table for three nights and running. I must have had sausage on my mind as I went racing through that store. Let me assure you, no one is complaining. Us Croziers love sausage, especially of the spicy variety, swimming in garlicky beans and topped with crisp bread crumbs (read: cassoulet). Cassoulet is a French pheasant dish and we tried it for the first time in, believe it or not, France.
 

We were in this amazing medieval town called Carcassonne, fortified with a massive wall just like in fairytales. We had read that the region was known for it's cassoulet so we (I) felt obligated to give it a try. The restaurant we dined in felt just as massive as the city, with rustic wood slab tables, cold rock walls and giant beams overhead. It felt like the waitress should come sloshing over with a stein of foamy beer. And maybe she did, but we weren't big beer drinkers back them (I'm still not) so I can't really remember. Honestly, sausage with beans sounded far from exciting to me at the time but I'm a rule-follower and I do what the guidebook says. If cassoulet is what the area was famous for, cassoulet was what we would get. It's all a bit fuzzy now but I seem to remember the dish tasting like, well, sausage and beans, nothing extraordinary. But it was obviously good enough (or at least the memories of that trip were fond enough) to draw us to this recipe when it was published in Bon Appetit Magazine back in the winter of 2012.
 
It has been raining here in the Pacific Northwest and suddenly I've had a hankering for sausage (obviously!!!) and beans too and so this recipe came to mind. Nothing sounds more comforting than a comforting cassoulet, especially when it's as exciting and flavorful as this one. The original recipe called for gigante beans but I have no idea what those are so I have always substituted dried large lima beans. Did you even know those existed?! I always thought I HATED lima beans (and I certainly do hate those horrid little green ones found in bags of frozen mixed vegetables - ick!) but dried limas? They are large and white in color and yummy and readily available in the bean section of your local supermarket.
 
This recipe isn't a quick one but it's perfect for a blustery day when you're stuck at home with napping children and mountains of laundry. You throw together a few ingredients here, let it simmer, add a couple more ingredients, let it simmer and so on a so forth. You certainly aren't locked into the kitchen all day but it does take a total cook time of about 4 hours from start to finish so be sure to plan ahead. Care to join me and make sausage week a real thing?

Spicy Italian Sausage Cassoulet
(adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)
 
1 (16 ounce) bag or 3 cups dried large lima beans
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
8 hot Italian sausage links (About 2 pounds)
1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), cut into 1/4"-thick rounds
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, crushed with your hands
7 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
Breadcrumb topping:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh coarse breadcrumbs (from three 1/2"-thick slices white sandwich bread)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
 
For beans and sausage:
 
Place beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3". Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
 
Drain beans. Add fresh water to cover by 3". 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.
 
Preheat oven to 450°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add sauasage and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 7-8 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate and set aside.
 
Place 2 tablespoons oil, leek, and onion in same pot. Season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies; 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; bring to a boil.
 
Cover and bake until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add sausage (and any accumulated juices) to pot, pressing to submerge. Bake until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, 40-45 minutes longer.
 
For breadcrumb topping:
 
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add bread- crumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
 
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans and drizzle with remaining 3 tablespoons 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.
 
 
Serves 8


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posted by kelsie