Do you have a slow cooker? I mysteriously own two! Completely unnecessary I know. And somehow I forget to use these 2 dear old friends. Although both the same in theory, I do have a favorite among the two. Let’s call Monsieur Cooker #1 my fav. He has a fancy timer, a lid holder and neat settings. Sorry Monsieur Cooker 2, you are cool too. They quietly sit in our basement and I mainly bust them out when making steel-cut oats or shredded pulled meats. Not today though! Today Monsieur Cooker #1 is assisting me in tackling a French classic, a Cassoulet.
Let me be the first one to say, I had no idea what a Cassoulet was at first. I knew it was French and I thought it was a soup of sorts. Well, let me tell you this hearty winter friendly dish is much more. It is a gloriously rich stew containing meat, white beans and veggies. Refreshingly simple, rustic and of peasant origins, this French classic was absolutely made for the slow cooker. I’m sure hundreds of years ago French peasants thought, “let’s make a dish that can sit all day in the slow cooker and greet us after a long day’s work.” Yep I’m sure that’s how it went. Nevertheless, I thank the French for piecing together such basic available ingredients and cooking it for hours.
Traditionally cassoulets were made with various meats. Normally with chicken, sausage, goose, duck and/or bacon. But to make it an easier healthier weeknight meal, I like using just sausage and beans. My motto is that if you use one or two natural quality ingredients, a meal will shine. No need for a long list of ingredients.
Tired of chili but need an easy hearty dish, try this Slow Cooker Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet. Creamy white beans, tasty sausage, veggies, herbs and crusty bread to mop it all up. Throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and come home to a warm hearty meal.
Slow Cooker Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet
*Notes: I like using dried beans so you need to soak them the night before. Dried beans have no added sodium plus they are cheap! Canned beans are just fine for a fast substitution. However if using canned beans your cook time might be a little less, low for 5-7 hours or high for 4. In terms of the type of bean, Northern, Navy and cannellini are all wonderful in the cassoulet.
Different sausages work wonderfully in this recipe. The most tasty (and fatty) will be Italian sausage mild or spicy. If using spicy sausage, you may want to hold back on the cayenne unless you are a true spice lover. Kielbasa and bratwurst are also fine. For a healthier less fatty choice, opt for chicken sausage. You can make this a gluten-free meal by using your favorite gluten-free sausage and swapping for gluten-free bread.
- 1 1/2 cup dried white beans*
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 sausages* (I used chicken)
- 3 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (dried is fine if you do not have fresh)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)*
- Salt and pepper
- Flat leaf parsley to garnish (optional)
- Parmigiano reggiano
If using dried beans, soaked them in cold water overnight. Drain in the morning.
In a cast iron, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausages for 2-3 minutes per side. Don’t worry the sausages will cook through in the slow cooker. Set browned sausages aside.
Place carrots in the slow cooker. I used a 6 quart slow cooker. Then set the sausages on top. Cover the sausage with onion, garlic, thyme, cayenne if using, tomatoes, beans and stock. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt.
Cover slow cooker and cook until the beans are tender and creamy, on low for 7 – 8 hours or high for 4 – 5 hours.
Serve it up in wide bowls with thick hunks of buttered baguette and topped with Parmesan cheese.
Enjoy with a robust red like a Côtes du Rhône, Shiraz or Zinfandel. Or your favorite lager.
And as always save your leftovers for a weekday lunch or quick and easy dinner. This reheats deliciously!!!!