Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet with Kale Walnut Pesto
There is really nothing like a slow cooked meat, veggie and bean dish that uses lots of wine and herbs. I mean the flavors just have hours and hours to meld together and get to know each other – like old friends. And somehow those wonderful combinations seep their way into the beans and create this rich stock that is so much better than just chicken stock alone. I used a round clay earthenware kind of pot for this dish, and covered it with foil for part of the cooking time and then left it uncovered for the last hour. But you could also use a slow cooker or just a rectangular baking dish that is oven proof. The term cassoulet is a French word that describes the process of putting meat in a pot and slow cooking it. It was a kind of peasant food but the idea is an easy one pot meal. Trust me though, the flavors are complex enough for entertaining, too. And again, you don’t have to use what I did for the meat, which was a good quality chicken sausage (uncooked). You could use regular sausage or spicy sausage or even some chuck beef.
I had some baby kale on hand and thought what a good idea it would be to add some green to the dish by way of a pesto. Sometimes I like to add fresh baby spinach to a stew right at the end to let it wilt. It adds a nice freshness to it and something healthy. So the pesto is along the same lines. There’s garlic and walnuts and parmesan cheese in it so it’s a hearty pesto with lots of flavor. Kale gives it a much different flavor profile than a traditional pesto with basil. It’s more earthy but I think it works perfectly with this hearty stew-like dish. You add a few teaspoons at the end and stir it around And don’t forget the crusty bread! You’ll probably even have some leftover pesto for sandwiches the next day.
- 3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 lb uncooked chicken sausage or pork sausage, casing removed
- 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup leeks, rinsed and chopped (white and light green parts only)
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 2 - 15 oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed (great northern or cannellini)
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups dry white wine (good quality that you would drink)
- 5-6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
- Kale Walnut Pesto
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup romano or parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 teaspoons juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 cups loosely packed baby kale
- 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees and butter a 9 1/2 inch round x 3 1/2 inch deep baking dish or a 10x7 rectangular baking dish.
- In a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp and remove from pan. Drain off all but 1 Tablespoon bacon fat.
- Add the onions, celery, leeks and sausage to the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Break the sausage down with a wooden spoon while cooking. You want even, small pieces. Add in the garlic for the last minute or cooking.
- When the veggies are softened and the meat is starting to brown (don't overcook) add in the tomato paste and 1 cup of the white white to deglaze the pan. Stir with the wooden spoon.
- Remove from the heat and put the mixture straight into the baking dish. Add in the rest of the white wine, the chicken stock, beans and fresh thyme sprigs. You can tie the thyme with kitchen twine to make it easier to fish out the stems later.
- Give the mixutre a gentle stir, cover with foil or lid and cook for 1 hour. Remove foil and stir. Continue cooking for at least one more hour.
- Remove thyme stems (the leaves should be in the stew which you want) and top with pecorino or parmesan cheese. Place dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to get the cheese a bit set.
- Serve with Kale Pesto and fresh bread.
- Kale Pesto (can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated)
- Combine the walnuts, garlic, cheese, lemon zest and juice and red pepper flakes in the food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add in the kale leaves and salt and pepper. Pulse again to start to break down the leave and then stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust as needed with salt and pepper.