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Been and Leek Cassoulet

February 10, 2010

I’ve had this recipe on my mind for awhile because I love the thought of a cassoulet, but not all the meat and

bean and leek cassoulet

preparation that goes with it.  I also placed an order for more Rancho Gordo beans and thought this dish would be the best way to showcase the cranberry beans I bought.  But you don’t have to have special beans to make this  because you can find dried cranberry beans pretty easily in stores.  While they’re not traditional for cassoulets, they have a meaty, nutty flavor that makes the dish.  That and some dried porcini mushrooms that add lots of earthy flavor and creme fraiche.  Plus, it’s a great way to use leftover panko from Eli’s Asian Salmon.   I really loved this dish- so much so that I ate the entire thing myself for days and didn’t get sick of it.  This is a great make ahead dish, because you can prepare the bean and leek mixture, then refrigerate it overnight, sprinkle the panko on top right before you’re ready to  bake, then just wait until it’s done.  This would be great served with a salad, or roast sausages or chicken.  This recipe comes from Food and Wine and serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 pounds fresh cranberry beans, shelled (3 cups), or 2 c dried

12 thyme sprigs, plus 1 T chopped thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 ounce (0.031 lbs.) dried porcini mushrooms

3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick

2 T unsalted butter

1/2 c crème fraîche

1 T chopped marjoram (I substituted oregano I had on hand)

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a large soup pot, cover the fresh cranberry beans with 3 quarts of cold water (if using dried beans, be sure to have soaked them overnight).  Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, if using fresh beans.  If using dried beans, add salt half way through cooking.  Add the bundle of whole thyme sprigs and the bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes for fresh and 1-1 1/2 hours for dried.  Drain the beans and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, pour 4 cups of boiling water over the dried porcini and let stand until the mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and squeeze them dry over the bowl; reserve the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the top third of the oven.  Slowly pour the mushroom soaking liquid into a large saucepan, discarding the last bit of gritty liquid.  Add the chopped porcini, leeks, butter and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a rapid simmer and cook, uncovered, over moderate heat until the leeks are very tender and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 35 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the crème fraîche, 2 teaspoons of the chopped thyme, 2 teaspoons of the chopped marjoram and the reserved beans. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer the bean mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, toss the panko with the olive oil and the remaining 1 teaspoon each of chopped thyme and marjoram or oregano. Sprinkle the panko over the beans. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the beans are bubbling and the panko is browned. Remove the cassoulet from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into warm bowls and serve.

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