The March 2008 Gourmet is a special issue focusing on French bistro cooking. It has many interesting and easy recipes for many of the typical dishes from French bistros, from steak and fries, roasted chicken to profitroles. The cuisine is not necessarily vegetarian friendly since many of the dishes focus on meat or include some type of pork.
One of the recipes was for a vegetarian version of cassoulet. Cassoulet is a dish from southwestern France that is a stew made from white beans and meat. The meat varies by region with the most famous combination of duck, sausage and white beans. I have wanted to try it but never have since G does not eat meat.
So the recipe for a vegetarian version caught my attention. It was also pretty simple since it used canned beans instead of requiring the long cooking. I also had three cans of white beans that I have been trying to use. Perfect.
The recipe starts by cooking a mirepoix, a combination of leek, carrot and celery. I could not find leeks at the grocery store so I substituted a shallot and chopped onions. These are cooked first in olive oil with sprigs of aromatic herbs and a bay leaf. The rinsed canned beans are added along with water and cooked for about 30 minutes. The final dish is sprinkled with garlic bread crumbs which added a nice crunchy texture contrast to the smoothness of the white beans.
I just checked the comments on Epicurious. Several of the people commenting added tomatoes but I enjoyed it without the tomatoes. I use tomatoes so much in my cooking - it was a nice change. A very satisfying dish.
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved
lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 quart water
For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.
Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.