This mushroom Cassoulet is absolutely stellar; one of the best things that I have cooked (and inhaled) in a long time.
Though I am usually the world's biggest fan of Tarbais beans, the traditional bean used in classic Cassoulet, I felt that smaller beans would work better with a vegetarian version of the dish. I used Mayocoba beans from this year's Rancho Gordo order, which were amazing. Not only were they luscious and creamy, but they turned their cooking water into a rich, flavorful, golden broth, which I have frozen to make soup with at some point, perhaps with the addition of a ham hock. Navy beans would work well here, or any small white bean, and I might try a version with brown lentils at some point.
Many recipes on the internet suggest using canned beans, but I do feel that dry beans are necessary here due to their texture. I think that canned beans would end up being too mushy by the time the cassoulet was done.
This makes two servings, both of which I ate in one go and am not even embarrassed to say. That is how good this is.
1/2 cup dry beans
1 1/2 cups chopped assorted mushrooms. I chopped the mushrooms to approximately the size of the beans, and used a mixture of fresh oyster mushrooms, baby Bellas and rehydrated dried shiitake. Use whatever mushrooms you like.
1 yellow or white onion, halved, one half peeled and finely chopped, the other half left unpeeled and whole
2 cloves garlic, both smashed and peeled, one left whole and 1 finely chopped
1 large slice of your favorite bread
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
Salt and white pepper to taste
Place your washed beans in a large bowl along with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Cover with boiling water by several inches. Set aside for several hours to soften the beans.
When ready, place the unpeeled onion half, the whole garlic clove, the bay leaves and half the thyme in a large pan. Tip in the beans and their soaking water and add additional water so that the beans are submerged by several inches in water.
Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Let the water boil happily away for ten minutes before lowering the heat to low and covering the pan. Cook until the beans are soft and creamy. Cooking time will depend on the beans that you use. My Mayocoba beans took nearly two hours, and I had to add more boiling water to cover them about half way through. Taste your beans after an hour, or squeeze one between your fingers to check for softness, and take it from there. Just don't let the pan boil dry.
As soon as the beans are on the hob, cut your bread into very small pieces, about half the size of your beans. Spread the bread pieces onto a baking tray and set aside. You want the bread to start to dry out, which will add more crunch to the end result.
When the beans are cooked, drain them (reserving a quarter cup for use in the mushroom mixture) and set aside. As mentioned above, I kept the liquid for soup, removing the garlic clove, the onion, and the bay leaves.
Preheat your oven to 375.
In the same pan that you cooked the beans in, heat two teaspoons of the oil along with the garlic, onion, remaining dried thyme. Cook over medium heat until the onions have softened. Stir often so that the garlic does not burn.
Add the mushrooms, some salt and some white pepper and lower the heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft and have started to give off liquid. This will take about five minutes.
Pour in the quarter cup of bean liquor and stir to combine. Cook until the mushrooms have absorbed most of the liquid and all that remains is a viscous coating.
Remove from the heat and stir in the beans. Decant the resulting mixture, including any of the thickened liquid, into a small, oven safe dish, just large enough to contain the mushroom-bean mixture, or into two ramekins.
Sprinkle the bread pieces with a little salt and use them to cover the surface of the bean mixture as illustrated below. Drizzle with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake for 20 - 30 minutes until the bread crust is golden brown and very crunchy.
Spoon into a dish and enjoy. For meat-eaters, this would make a really great side dish to a grilled pork chop of pork roast, or really great sausages of some kind. For vegetarians, don't say I didn't warn that you will over indulge and eat all of this.
Inspiration recipe, here.