Thursday, February 16, 2012
WHITE BEANS WITH SAUSAGE AND TOMATOES
Genius: Beans + sausage + cherry tomatoes + aromatics + oven = a simple version of cassoulet. Hearty but not heavy, comforting, flavorful, and oh so easy, this is the best kind of winter one-dish meal. Just toss some stuff in a pan, throw it in the oven while you relax, put the crusty, bubbling, richly fragrant dish on the table with a green salad and maybe some bread, and let the compliments roll in.
The recipe is from chef Pam Anderson (not to be confused with Baywatch Pam Anderson, although I’m sure she gets that all the time, poor woman), via The Merry Gourmet via Dinner With Julie, where I spotted it and instantly fell in love. My rendition falls somewhere between the original and Julie’s halved, slightly streamlined version. The quantities are flexible; I used 1½ pints tomatoes and 4 largish sausages, but go ahead and adjust to your tastes. I did find that my casserole was looking a bit drier than I’d like near the end of cooking, maybe because I used cooked dry beans (I had some that needed to be used up) instead of canned, so I had a brainwave and dumped in a splash of white wine to loosen things up and then put it back in the oven long enough for the alcohol to burn off. I noticed that the original version called for the canned beans to be undrained, whereas Julie’s version has you drain and rinse them. In general, I prefer to get rid of that odd, salty solution, but perhaps it would have taken care of the dryness situation. In my case, I could have used some of the bean cooking liquid if I’d had the presence of mind to keep it around, but the wine produced such an excellent flavor boost that I’m going to recommend it if you have some handy. Also, be sure to use the best sausage you can find, since it takes center stage here; I love a lot of the different flavors of Trader Joe’s precooked chicken sausages (the Cajun andouille is my go-to spicy), but their Italian sausage is just OK, so I sprang for big hot Italian pork sausages from the Whole Foods meat counter (they apparently grind and season their own sausage at each store; who knew?) and was quite pleased with it. When everything was finished cooking, I took the sausages out of the bean mixture and sliced them, then set them atop each serving, just for ease of eating. But do whatever you want; it’s that kind of party.
1 to 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
4 to 6 fresh sweet or hot Italian sausages
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
1 to 2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained, or about 2 to 3 cups cooked dry beans
Dry white wine to taste (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine tomatoes, sausages, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, thyme or rosemary, bay leaves, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large heavy roasting pan or Dutch oven. Set pan in oven and roast until sausages are brown and tomatoes have broken down, about 45 minutes.
3. Remove pan from oven, stir in beans, and if the mixture looks a bit dry, add a little white wine, water, or bean can/cooking liquid. Continue to roast until casserole has heated through, about 10 to 20 minutes longer. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Time: 75 minutes
Leftover potential: Good