Traditional cassoulet is a hearty, rustic dish, combining several types of meat with beans. Most busy home cooks don’t have time to slowly poach a duck confit, but you can try this approximation instead. It takes a few well-advised shortcuts with quality pork sausages, bacon and canned beans.
1 1/2 lb. (750 g.) pork sausages
2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
5 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 cans (15 oz./470 g. each) cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 can (14 1/2 oz./455 g.) diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 cup (2 oz./60 g.) fresh bread crumbs (optional)
4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g.) unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Slit each sausage diagonally several times on each side. In a large fry pan, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the fry pan, add the bacon, and saute until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Drain off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pan, adding some olive oil if necessary. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the onion and garlic to the pan. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beans and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes. Stir in the bacon, thyme, tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter a 3-qt. (3-l.) baking dish and distribute the sausages evenly in the dish. Spoon the bean mixture over the sausages. If desired, spread the bread crumbs on top and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake until the beans are bubbly and the crumb topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 4-6.