What could be a more perfect hunker-down-dish than a deep-brown, saucy and aromatic cassoulet? How about one that involves so little effort it's shameful? I made one in the slow cooker yesterday that was, as my favourite taste-tester (and husband) proclaimed, 100% rustic French farmhouse (even if id did come from a slow cooker).
The culinary romantic part of me longs for a Le Creuset baker - the perfect vessel for a slow cooked, saucy, bubbling and brown-topped cassoulet. The stingy side of me keeps balking at the price. I have been doing this dance of alternating lust and restraint over the Le Creuset baker for the better part of 10 years now. I see no need to stop.
That is why, instead of a misty-lensed picturesque afternoon punctuated by peeks into the softly glowing oven to check the progress of my mythical casserole, I made mine in the extremely well-loved slow-cooker that I bought at Home Depot in 2004 for the ridiculously low price of $35.99. Not exactly the charming genesis I had envisioned for this dish, but hey, it was still darn tasty.
This dish is best served with a big loaf of warm crusty bread and fresh butter or, if you're going for the authentic farmhouse feel, topped with a generous helping of breadcrumbs fried in seasoned butter. or possibly both.
It's important to get the right kind of sausage for this as it will be simmered for a great deal of time, and coarser sausages tend to fall apart with such treatment. The kind I use is fine ground and can stand up to hours of simmering - sometimes it's referred to as "boiling sausage". I buy it mine at the K&K Foodliner on Whyte Avenue where they sell it in ham, beef, turkey & bison varieties and it's all made right on premises.
- 1.5 cups dried cannellini beans
- 350 - 400 grams good country garlic sausage, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thich
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
- 1 large (896 ml) tin chopped tomatoes in juice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
Soak beans overnight or at least 4 hours in warm water, drain, rinse and add to a 4.5 litre (or larger) slow cooker.
In a large frying pan, lightly sprayed with oil, quickly fry the sausage rounds at medium high heat for 6 to 7 minutes until sausage begins to brown, add onion and continue to cook and stir for 3-4 minutes more until onion begins to soften.
Transfer contents of pan into the slow cooker and use the beef stock to deglaze the pan. Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker, except the parsley. Cook on the high setting for 3 to 4 hours. Remove from heat and stir through the parsley. Have a taste before you add any salt or pepper as, depending on the sausage and stock used, there may be no need for salt.
Serve in chunky earthenware bowls topped with buttered fried breadcrumbs or with fresh French bread. This is even better the second day!