Turkey Sausage Cassoulet
It’s a French-cooking standard, made from an assortment of duck, lamb, and goose sausages and white beans, cooked in a wine and brandy reduction, then baked in the oven until the flavors marry into a wonderful, fragrant stew.
We don’t do exotic sausages; the ingredients here in Lancaster are available but expensive, fatty–much too fatty for our diets–and a little gamy for teen-age girls. So we’ve adjusted, using turkey sausage, a readily available commodity, and created a hearty Sunday evening meal perfect for the fall season, when temperatures are beginning to drop, the herbs in the garden are mature and full of flavor, the tomatoes are at their zenith, and football is on TV, keeping me company as I cook.
What could be more rib-sticking on an autumn Sunday afternoon than a nice, rich cassoulet.
I took this recipe from an old edition of the Cooking Light cookbook and adjusted it to on-hand ingredients and available time. One of the interesting things I did, and I would do it again, is to substitute Irish whiskey for cognac, and I did it for two reasons: 1) I wanted to see what it would taste like; and 2) I’m fresh out of cognac. I could substitute brandy, but the only brandy I have in the house is an incredible Austrian brandy that I don’t have very much of, and is too good for cooking.
Here’s the recipe for tonight’s production, Turkey Sausage Cassoulet:
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds turkey sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 15-oz cans cannellini (white) beans
1 15-oz can black beans
2 bay leaves
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
dash ground cloves
1 4-oz piece of French baguette
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, swirl to coat, and add the sausage pieces; cook, stirring constantly for 8 minutes, until the pieces are lightly browned; remove from pan to a bowl and set aside. Add 1 tablespoons olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping up the brown bits from the pan as you do.
Add the wine and whiskey, stir to remove the remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the alcohol is mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, thyme, beans, bay leaves, tomatoes, and cloves to the vegetable mixture, return the sausage to the pan and stir well to combine all the ingredients. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Place the baguette in a food processor and whizz to make bread crumbs. Heat a large non-stick pan; add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and bread crumbs to the pan and toast, tossing to brown lightly. Sprinkle over the cassoulet and bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve with a good red wine and the remaining baguette to soak up the sauces.