Monday, October 8, 2012

Cassoulet Forestiere

November's Vegetarian Times has a story this month called "Bulk Buying 101," which includes a number of delicious looking recipes.  One that caught my eye was "Cassoulet Forestiere," a vegan version of a traditional French cassoulet. 

Cassoulet, according to Wikipedia, is "a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans."  The Vegetarian Times version of course doesn't include meat, subbing a variety of meaty, wild mushrooms (hence the "Forestiere") and vegetables, but retaining the traditional while beans.

This recipe takes several hours, so it's a perfect one for a chilly weekend day or day off from work like today.  Yesterday, I picked up some dried cannellini beans.  Early this morning, I put the beans up to soak, and then headed to the Rockville Whole Foods to pick up the rest of my ingredients.  This particular Whole Foods, as you can see in the linked blog, has an amazing bulk section. In addition to dried beans and nuts, you can get a variety of grains, spices, seasonings and dried mushrooms and peppers.  So, in other words, it was the perfect place to shop for ingredients for recipes celebrating the bulk aisle.  In addition to grabbing some lentils, split peas and mung beans for another recipe in the issue, "Mixed Dal with Tomato Tarka," I also bought dried chanterelles and morels there.  Note that dried morels will give you sticker shock ($228 a pound!) but that you won't need very many to make this recipe.  You can easily sub less expensive dried mushrooms if you prefer.

Dried Wild Mushrooms Pre-Soaking (Chanterelles left, Morels right)
While the mushrooms were soaking, I cleaned and chopped the leeks, and then the carrots and garlic.  When the mushrooms were done soaking, I chopped those, and sauteed everything in my Le Creuset French Oven.  Following the recipe directions, I added in the mushroom soaking water, a can of tomatoes and the soaked beans, and immediately wished that we had registered for a slightly larger French Oven.  That said, I managed to squeeze everything in to simmer for two hours.

Leeks, carrots, mushrooms and garlic cooking
I wish the recipe was clearer on a few points here.  First, there are no pictures (perhaps by the time the recipe is posted on-line, there will be) so I wasn't sure what the final consistency should look like.  The only direction is that, after the two hour simmering period, that the mixture should be "a little soupy."  The recipe noted to bring the mixture to a boil covered, but not whether it should have been simmered covered or uncovered.  I went with covered.  I think it also would have helped to mention that you needed your most enormous cooking receptacle, since I think my layer of breadcrumbs (I used panko since that's what we have in the house) may have been too thick - another reason a picture would have been helpful.

Topped with breadcrumbs and ready to bake.

That griping aside, it tasted very hearty and was a great chilly, damp fall day dish.  I did salt it a little bit at the table, but otherwise, it's seasoned nicely.  I think it will reheat well, but I'm worried the breadcrumbs may get soggy.  If I make it again, I may add a little something green to it to give it some more color.  I sprinkled some dried parsley on there, but fresh would have been better.

Now that Fall is coming, what's your favorite seasonal vegetarian or vegan dish?


  1. If you had a pressure cooker, and used it, the cassoulet dish would have taken about 10 minutes at pressure using soaked beans. And it would taste great.

    The pressure cooker is the vegetarian and vegan cook's new best friend.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for the idea! I'm surprised Vegetarian Times didn't mention a pressure cooker option in its recipe, and that they don't do more pressure cooker recipes in general. I will say that while I definitely appreciate quick and healthy meals, I also liked having something simmering for a long time on my stove that makes the kitchen smell delicious.