Mark Bittman's Recipe for Cassoulet With Vegetables

PHOTO: Mark Bittman, a New York Times food critic and cookbook author, shares his recipe for cassoulet with vegetables.

Mark Bittman, a New York Times food critic and cookbook author, shared one of his tasty recipes on a recently "Nightline" segment about people who are eating less meat.

A note from Mark Bittman: This is one of my favorite recipes from "Food Matters," and not only the dish I demonstrate most frequently but also the one I cook for any gathering of two or more people (I've done it for 60; no problem). It has nearly all of the richness of a traditional, slow-simmered cassoulet but is easier, faster, and better for you. The main recipe starts with already cooked or canned beans and is ready relatively fast. To begin with dried beans, see the variation; it takes more time, but the results are even better.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound Italian sausages in casings, bone-in pork chops, confit duck legs, or fresh duck breast, or a combination

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 leeks, trimmed, well rinsed, and sliced, or 2 onions, sliced

2 carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths

3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 zucchini or 1 small head green cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and black pepper

4 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine, include their juice)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 bay leaves

4 cups cooked or canned white beans, drained, liquid reserved

2 cups stock, dry red wine, bean-cooking liquid, or water, or more as needed

Pinch of cayenne, or to taste

Instructions:

1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. A minute later, add the meat and cook, turning as needed, until the pieces are deeply browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, leeks, carrots, celery, and zucchini; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the reserved meat, and the herbs and bring to a boil. Add the beans and bring to a boil again, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but continuously. Cook for about 20 minutes, adding the stock when the mixture gets thick and the vegetables are melting away, about halfway through cooking.

3. Fish out the meat, remove the bones and skin as needed, and discard the bay leaves. Chop the meat into chunks and return to the pot along with the cayenne. Cook for another minute or 2 to warm through, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

Slow-Cooked Cassoulet Instructions:

Start with dried beans. After browning the meat in Step 1, leave it in the pan and add 8 ounces dried white beans (they'll cook faster if you soak them first) and enough water or stock to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle bubble. Cover tightly and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cook the vegetables as directed in Step 2. When the beans are beginning to get tender, add the vegetables to the pot of beans along with the tomatoes and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle bubble. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are fully tender, adding more liquid as necessary to keep them covered by about 1 inch. This will take anywhere from another 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the age of your dried beans.

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