Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

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Yield: 8 Servings

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This streamlined, somewhat lighter cassoulet employs French green lentils, bacon, and smoked sausage.

Ingredients

1 1 -pound 1 1/2-2-inch-thick piece smoked skin-on slab bacon

1 bay leaf

2 medium onions, 1 whole, 1 minced

2 whole cloves

2 cups French green lentils

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium carrots, peeled, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

of cayenne pepper

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh sage

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme

12 ounces good-quality kielbasa sausage or other smoked garlic sausage, cut on a diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices

4 cups breadcrumbs made from day-old white country bread

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh chives

Dijon mustard (optional)

Cornichons (optional)

Instructions

Bring bacon and 8 cups water to boil in a large pot (bacon should be submerged). Attach bay leaf to whole onion by piercing it with cloves; add to pot. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer bacon, turning occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Skim off fat from surface and discard.

Combine strained broth and lentils in a large saucepan. If necessary, add more water to cover lentils by 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender but not mushy, 18-20 minutes. Drain lentils, reserving broth. Transfer lentils to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion, carrots, celery, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly colored, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, sage, and thyme; stir for 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with lentils.

Cut skin from cooled bacon; discard skin. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Add to lentils; toss mixture gently until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 3-qt. baking dish.

Distribute sausage evenly over lentil mixture, gently pushing into lentils. Moisten lentils with reserved broth to barely cover (2-2 1/2 cups; add water if needed).

Combine breadcrumbs with butter in a medium bowl; season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly over lentil mixture; cover dish tightly with foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake cassoulet for 45 minutes. Remove foil; bake until breadcrumbs are golden and juices are simmering, 25-30 minutes. Let cassoulet rest for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and chives; serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons, if desired.

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