Baked beans have always been one of my favourite foods. As a kid, I’d open a tin for my after-school snack, my mom made them regularly for dinner, and they’ve been a staple in my recipe repertoire forever.
Then on a family trip to France ten years ago, we discovered cassoulet and I promptly appropriated it for myself. My adaptation has no sugar (unlike North American baked beans), less meat and fat than the French include, and a vegan variation is, frankly, just as delicious.
2 cups uncooked white navy beans
3 spicy gluten-free turkey sausages
2 chicken thighs or breasts
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1 cup tomato sauce
Pour about six cups of boiling water over the beans (they should be well covered and then some) in a big Dutch oven, bean pot, or lidded casserole dish (big enough to let the beans swell as they absorb the water). Let sit about an hour. This reduces the cooking time for the beans.
Add the herbes to the soaked beans and simmer together for about an hour, until the beans are cooked.
Chop the meat into bite-size (or bigger) pieces and brown it – or not. In the interests of saving a few minutes and having fewer dishes to wash, I sometimes (okay, usually) skip this step.
Toss the meat and tomato sauce into the pot, stir it around, and slide the whole works, covered, into the oven at about 200° for an hour and a half.
Check the liquid occasionally and add water if necessary.
This will serve, oh, six or eight people and freezes well.
As with everything I cook, the ingredients are, um, variable. Cassoulet is perfect for adapting to suit yourself. Add ham or duck or leave out the meat altogether. Add more herbs or different ones. Use a bit of tomato paste or real tomatoes instead of sauce…you get the idea.