Weekly Winner – Viva La France Comfort Food!

Wow, it’s been awhile.  I know I’ve slacked off at this for a bit but to make it up, hopefully I will get two posts in this week.  This first one was actually prepared two weeks ago but due to my work and travel schedule, has not been posted yet.

I adore all things French.  I would like to say it is in my genetic make-up but alas, I do not believe I have a drop of French blood in me.  German, sure.  I touch of Irish, absolutely… but French?  Non.   For whatever reason, perhaps a former life, I love French food.   Not necessarily the fussy high-end cuisine found in US French restaurants (although I see nothing wrong with that either) but French country fare.  Everyday French food found in bistros and prepared using simple ingredients in a soul-satisfying way.

This dish fits the bill perfectly.  Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit and while it is a bit time-consuming, there is nothing difficult with this recipe.  The results are sheer cozy goodness.  Make it all.  Regardless of how few people you are serving because the leftovers are just as tasty.

Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

Ingredients

  • 1 -pound piece of 1 -1/2 inch-thick piece smoked skin-on slab bacon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium onions, 1 whole, 1 minced
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 cups French green lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons  coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme
  • 12 ounces good-quality kielbasa sausage or other smoked garlic sausage,  cut on a diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs made from day-old white country bread
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh chives
  • Dijon mustard (optional)
  • Cornichons (optional)

Preparation

Bring bacon and 8 cups water to boil in a large pot (bacon should be submerged). Attach bay leaf to whole onion by piercing it with cloves; add to pot. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer bacon, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Skim off fat from surface and discard.

Combine strained broth and lentils in a large saucepan. If necessary, add more water to cover lentils by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender but not mushy, 18–20 minutes. Drain lentils, reserving broth. Transfer lentils to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly colored, 7–8 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and thyme; stir for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with lentils.

Cut skin from cooled bacon; discard skin. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Add to lentils; toss mixture gently until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 3-qt. baking dish.

Distribute sausage evenly over lentil mixture, gently pushing into lentils. Moisten lentils with reserved broth to barely cover (2–2 1/2 cups; add water if needed).

Combine breadcrumbs with butter in a medium bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly over lentil mixture; cover dish tightly with foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake cassoulet for 45 minutes. Remove foil; bake until breadcrumbs are golden and juices are simmering, 25–30 minutes. Let cassoulet rest for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and chives; serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons, if desired.

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