Here is the "cassoulet" that I made with one half of the bacon that we made a few weeks ago. This is not a traditional cassoulet by any stretch, lacking the French garlic sausage, tarbais beans and duck confit that are the hallmarks of the real deal. That said, this was a remarkably tasty dish that allowed for the use of a few meat scraps clogging the freezer (the Italian sausage and cooked chicken), and also helped me put a dent in the silly amount of Lentils du Puy I have in the pantry. It seems I can't pass by a box of them without tossing it into my shopping cart….it's a sickness I have.
This is not exactly a meat-light dish, but the addition of the veggies as well as the lack of duck fat make this meal feel much lighter than a traditional cassoulet. You could certainly ratchet back the amount of meat tossed into the pot without too much trouble, or choose a smoked ham hock instead of the bacon, and chicken or turkey sausage instead of the linguica, to make this a more waistline friendly treat. I promise not to judge.
When I make a "real" cassoulet I use D'Artagnan's kit which includes all the key ingredients including smoked pork belly, two types of sausage, confit duck legs, duck fat, and duck and veal demi-glace. I'm sorry, but you gained a pound just reading that sentence…..my bad. If you want to experience a cassoulet in all its original glory, then I can highly recommend the D'Artagnan kit. For those of you looking to save a few bucks (and calories) I urge you to give this lentil based recipe a try.
In just a fraction of the time it takes to make a "real" cassoulet, you can have this clever impostor on your table eliciting a chorus of "oh la las" and "merci beaucoups" from your adoring fans.
Cheers – Steve
- 1 pound, smoked - slab bacon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 medium onions, one whole, one minced
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 cups Lentils du Puy (French green lentils)
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 pound linguica sausage, cut on a diagonal into 1/3 inch thick slices
- 2 links hot Italian sausage, meat removed from the casings
- 2 cups, chopped cooked chicken
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 - 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- Bring the bacon and 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Attach the bay leaf to the whole onion by piercing it with the cloves and add it to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer the bacon, flipping occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer the bacon to a plate and let it cool, strain out the onion, bay and cloves and reserve the cooking liquid in the pot.
- Skim any fat from the top of the cooking liquid if you wish, then add the lentils to the pot. Add extra water to cover the lentils by 1/2 inch if necessary. Bring to a simmer and cook until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils, again reserving the broth.
- Heat oven to 375 ℉. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly caramelized, 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl with the cooked lentils.
- Cut the skin off the bacon (if it had one) and discard. Cut the remaining slab into lardons and add to a large skillet with the de-cased chunks of Italian sausage meat. Sauté over medium heat until the meat has rendered much of its fat and is nicely browned. Pull from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the meat to the bowl with lentils and veggies. Toss in the sliced sausage, chicken meat, diced tomatoes, and drained garbanzos. Toss well and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
- Pour the mix into a 3-4 quart baking dish and moisten with the reserved lentil cooking liquid (about 2 cups). Mix the melted butter with the panko crumbs, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the lentils in the baking dish.
- Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the breadcrumbs are golden, another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, sprinkle with chives and parsley and serve.