You know how sometimes an author can speak the words of your heart so accurately that you feel like you personally know him/her? Shauna Niequist is one of those authors for me and the community of young women who gather around my table for dinner every Monday. Whenever we refer to something that is influencing us from her writings, she is always referred to by her first name only – in the same way we talk about anyone else who is a part of our beloved community.
Shauna’s book “Bread & Wine: a love letter to life around the table, with recipes” is one of all-time favorite books. It’s a collection of essays about how we share life when we share food, and includes recipes that relate to her personal stories. One of my go to recipes comes from this book. Shauna learned this recipe from her mom who originally found it in an issue of Real Simple Magazine.
My community just refers to it as Shauna’s Cassoulet.
It’s is nourishing and delicious, and can be doubled to satisfy a crowd. It is one of my favorite meals to serve my people on a cold winter night, with a simple salad and a loaf of warm crusty bread. I think it will be a favorite for your people too.
SHAUNA’S CASSOULET, serves 6-8 people
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-1/2 pounds turkey Italian sausage, casings removed (I have used many different types of sausage in this recipe and it always turns out great. Just make sure you use raw sausage that you brown, not precooked sausage.)
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 brown or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 medium carrots, diced (it is not necessary to peel them)
- 3 medium parsnips, diced (parsnips are the secret ingredient, giving this dish a unique, earthy favor)
- 1 tomato, chopped or 1-8 ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 3-15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer to used boxed beans instead of canned)
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
- 1 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free works)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- In an oven-proof stock pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage until well browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
- Remove all but approximately 1 tablespoon of oil from the pot, try to leave brown bits of meat in the pot.
- Brown onions in the pot until translucent.
- Add 1/2 of garlic. Cook and stir for 60 seconds, or until garlic is golden on the edges.
- Add the chicken broth, vegetables, beans, thyme, salt, pepper, and the browned sausage. Bring to a boil. (I add the entire fresh thyme sprigs and then pull out the twigs after it’s done cooking. This is faster than removing the thyme off the twigs before cooking.)
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour, until thickened and the vegetable are tender.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a bowl, combine melted butter, remaining garlic, parsley, and bread crumbs. Stir gently to coat bread crumbs.
- Turn off heat, remove cover from pot, gently stir cassoulet, add bread crumb mixture on top.
- Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
Note: if you don’t have large enough oven-proof pot, cook the cassoulet on the stove and then transfer into an oven proof casserole dishe before you put the bread crumbs on top and finish baking in the oven. Likewise if you double this recipe for a crowd, it might be easier to cook it in one or two pots on the stove, and then transfer it into two oven proof casserole dishes before you put the bread crumbs on top and finish baking in the oven.