White beans are the centerpiece of cassoulet, and winter is a great time for cooking this hearty dish, but sometimes duck confit is just too much. And who has the time or patience to bake a dish for 4-5 hours? We have streamlined the traditional recipe, brightened it with two kinds of kale, and eliminated the confit and breadcrumbs.
HEALTH BENEFITS of BEANS:
pre-soaked dried bean method also removes two of the compounds that contribute to flatulence. And, they are less expensive. Need I say more? No real extra work involved, just a bit of planning ahead.
Bean time: 15 minute simmer, 4 hour or overnight soak, followed by a 60-90 minute simmer, then one hour at low temp in oven to cook with other ingredients.
Turn oven to 275-300 degrees 20 minutes before you are ready to assemble and bake the cassoulet.
Measure and rinse the white beans and place in pan, adding several cups of broth, enough to cover by an inch or two. Bring to a soft boil and let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off, let cool, and place in a container in the refrigerator with enough broth to allow for beans to expand–I leave about an inch or two. After beans have soaked, place them in a pan with their soaking broth and an additional 2 cups and simmer slowly. If you are using the bay leaves and thyme, they should also be added to the broth. Check every 20 to 30 minute to make sure there is enough broth, adding as you go. They soak up quite a bit.
Brown and cook sausage most of the way through (the sausage will then bake, so you don’t want them to dry out or be overcooked) on medium heat in a bit of oil. Slice onion and celery and, using the same pan, simultaneously sauté until the vegetables are just tender. If it is easier, do sausage and vegetables in separate pans.
Rinse the three bunches of kale (two curly and one lacinato), pat dry and remove coarse stems. Set the lacinato kale aside. Give a rough chop to the curly kale–about 1 inch pieces.
Slice the sausage into sections (I used about 3/4 inch).
Once the beans are cooked to the desired tenderness (they will not become more tender in the final cooking), remove from stove and take out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, if used. Drain, but reserve, any extra liquid from beans for adding after assembly or during baking. Add one cup dry white wine and 3 cloves of chopped or pressed garlic to the beans and gently toss.