What does cozy mean to you?
For me, cozy is curling up with my fuzziest afghan and a can’t-put-it-down novel on a rainy Saturday morning.
It’s a house warmed by the oven and a plate of still-gooey chocolate chip cookies.
It’s a crowded dinner table, lit only by candles and the glow of Christmas lights.
It’s this warm, simple cassoulet slow cooked all afternoon until the flavors are more than the ingredients would suggest.
If you’ve never heard of cassoulet, it’s basically a fancy French word for casserole. I only recently learned that it’s pronounced cass-oh-lay not cass-oh-let, which is how I so confidently said it to the deli counter guy who asked me what I was making. Here’s hoping he wasn’t French.
But I digress. Cassoulet is a French casserole usually comprised of some combination of pork, white beans, and vegetables. It’s the kind of dish designed to simmer all day until the flavors meld into one glorious unit. But, uhhhh, who really has ALL DAY to wait for a dish to get good? I’ve even seen a few cassoulet recipes that call for a three day process!
Before you panic, this is NOT that recipe. This is a laid back, chilled out version of cassoulet that takes about 30 minutes to prep and 1 hour of alone time in the dutch oven to really get its groove on. The casserole itself is a hearty combination of Italian sausage, carrots, parsnips, cannelini beans, and some other odds and ends (AKA: stuff I found in the back of my veggie drawer). All of the flavors feed off each other, each soaking up the richness of the other. The end product is a sort of thick stew, with just a little broth around the edges.
But then comes the really good part. You take this stew, top it with buttery, garlicky breadcrumbs, then put it in the oven until it’s golden and crispy on top. I loved this topping so much, I’m going to start putting it on everything (mac and cheese…tomato soup…yogurt…Wait, No…….Maybe?…No.)
I couldn’t think of a better word to describe this than cozy. It’s warm, comforting, and full of rich flavors. The parsnips add a surprising hint of sweetness that I really enjoyed. I served this for a dinner party (along with this salad), and it was perfect for a casual, comfy night in with good friends. This is also totally make-ahead friendly and can even be frozen and saved for just the right occasion. I’ve included directions for making ahead and freezing the cassoulet below!
Cozy Cassoulet with Herbed Breadcrumb Topping
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 parsnips, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 heaping teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
For the breadcrumbs
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups bread crumbs (I use stale bread and just give it a whiz in the blender)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
- In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage is browned. Once the sausage is cooked, tilt the pan to one side and use a paper towel to sop up and discard any excess oil.
- Add the chicken broth and remaining ingredients (excluding the bread crumbs) to the pot. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, make the breadcrumb topping. In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, and butter. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the crumb mixture over the cassoulet in the dutch oven or transfer it to an oven safe casserole dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown and crisped.
- If you'd like to make this dish ahead of time, prepare it without the crumb topping. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze up to 4 months. When ready to cook, uncover the cassoulet, sprinkle it with the breadcrumbs, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees.
Recipe adapted from Bread and Wine who thanks Real Simple Magazine