Lentil and Garlic Sausage Cassoulet

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This recipe seems as if it would be time consuming and difficult, but that’s not the case. It’s quite easy. There are some very deep flavors in this dish, the kind of flavors you especially appreciate when the weather turns colder and the leaves begin to fall. I served it with a simple salad and homemade pickles.
This recipe comes from an October 2012 edition of Bon Appetit magazine. Enjoy!

(1) 1-lb. 1 1/2″ – 2″ thick piece smoked skin-0n 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, cut on the diagonal into 1/3″ 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 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh chives

Bring bacon and 8 cups water to a 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″. 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 degrees. 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″ 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.

Wine served: 2010 Decoy, Napa County, Cabernet Sauvignon (a lovely everyday wine!)

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