French Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

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This cassoulet from a Bon Appetit recipe was going to be photographed after we dug a large spoon into it, but events changed, we ended up bringing it to a neighbor get-together and it was gone in ten minutes! You’ll just have to take my word for it….the dish is ripe with flavor.

1 1 Lb. 1 1/2 – 2 inches 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 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
pinch of cayenne pepper
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
12 oz. 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 (I used Panko)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted or olive oil
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat leaf parsely
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh chives

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 lenti 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 parsely and chives; serve with Dijon mustard and conichons, if desired.

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