I had some spare time this weekend, and an urge to cook, so I decided to finally take a stab at the vegetarian cassoulet recipe I had been saving for almost a year. Yes, for real. The San Francisco Chronicle Food & Wine section did a spread with a bunch of different variations on cassoulet last January, including a vegetarian one that looked fantastic. I saved it, since I knew I would have neither the time nor the will to cook such a thing with a newborn to care for.
I’m glad I saved the clipping for this long! The cassoulet wasn’t difficult, but it was time-consuming. I probably put a total of 4 hours into it, when all was said and done, but at least it wasn’t all active time. Most of it was just waiting for the beans to cook. The result was well worth the waiting, though.
This is definitely a keeper!
From the San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2011, with my modifications
2 large yellow onions
7 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 bay leaf
1 pound dried Great Northern beans*
2 small sprigs thyme, plus 3 1/2 tsp minced thyme
1 small sprig rosemary, plus 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 generous pinch smoked paprika
1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs minced sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp dry sherry**
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Peel the onions, halve lengthwise, slice thinly, and then chop. In a large frying pan, melt 3 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil. Add the onions, salt, and bay leaf and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the onions have softened and reduced in volume. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pick over and rinse beans. Place in a large pot and add water to cover by one inch, plus the thyme and rosemary sprigs and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender but not falling apart, about 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving 1 cup of the broth.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add the garlic and paprika, stirring until the garlic softens, about one minute. Add the crushed and sun-dried tomatoes, sherry, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, parsley, and 1 1/2 tsp minced thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Once you’re ready to assemble the cassoulet, preheat the oven to 350°. Add about 1/4 cup of the onions to the tomato sauce, stirring over medium heat to warm. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp thyme, and 1/2 tsp rosemary. Stir in 3/4 cup of the reserved bean broth. Remove the pan from the heat and fold in half of the beans and half of the remaining onions with a soft spatula, being careful not to crush the beans. Gently fold in the rest of the beans and onions. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more of the bean broth.
Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. Melt the remaining 4 Tbs butter. Toss the bread crumbs with the melted butter, the remaining 1/2 tsp thyme, and 1/4 tsp rosemary. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the beans. Bake until the topping has formed a golden crust and the juices are bubbling around the edge, about 30 minutes.
* Don’t soak the beans. You’ll cook them from dried, which takes a long time, but produces a great result. I only mention it because I did a double-take when I first read the recipe.
** If you don’t have sherry on hand (I didn’t), you can substitute a pinch of brown sugar along with a little more vinegar.