Updated: May 11
In the late ‘90’s I danced with my sisters at a restaurant on the Bowery called Marion’s. In many ways, our weekly shows there were a greater foray into entertainment for me and their ever-changing menu was certainly responsible for broadening my cultural palette beyond everything Italian. Summer brought weeks of Kahiki where Marion’s was transformed into a tropical paradise with thatched walls and pupu platters that I can still taste. During the winter months, plates of pot roast served over egg noodles and goat cheese fritters decorated the menu and thrilled my nights. Earlier this week my taste buds, started dreaming of Marion’s cassoulet. A smoked sausage dish with white beans and crunchy bread crumb top.
(photo by Allen Lee)
It’s funny how certain sounds, smells and tastes can evoke such clear memories. My desire for this dish brought back a flood of forgotten moments, mostly of NYC and the late 90’s burlesque revival. Whether we were sitting at a table post show with Jo Boobs Weldon stuffing ourselves silly, or passing Scotty the Blue Bunny on the street on our respective rides home post show; us in a minivan, he cruising on his bike. Sometimes all you need is that great big bite of something delicious to fill your belly and your heart. And so, seeking that fulfillment I attempted to create my version of a cassoulet and while I don’t think it’s officially a cassoulet by proper French standards, (I mean right out of the gate I am using Italian Sausage) however, I do think you are going to love it as much as I love the memories it brings to mind. So please enjoy what I like to call The Brooklyn Cassoulet!
Preheat the oven to 350
What Do I Need
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
10 Italian Sausage Links (I used 5 hot and 5 sweet, mine were also fresh from the butcher and about 4” in length each, so if you are buying pre-packaged, keep that in mind)
2 Medium Yellow Onion (Halved and sliced)
4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
1/3 Cup Dry Red Wine
1.5 t Fresh Oregano (chopped)
1.5 t Fresh Rosemary (chopped)
1 Bay Leaf
35 Ounce can of plum tomatoes
31 Ounces of Cannellini Beans (2 15.5 Oz cans)
2 Cups of Baby Spinach
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
6 Slices of Italian Bread (torn into bite size pieces)
1/2 t Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1 Clove of garlic (minced)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 Pecorino Romano Cheese (grated)
Prep all of your ingredients above and set aside. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in an oven proof sauce pan (be sure you have a lid for it), poke holes in your sausage and brown on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes, remove your sausage from the pan, set on a dish with a paper towel and set aside. Pour your red wine into your pan and stir, bringing up all the sausage bits into the wine, mix well for about a minute and then add your onions and garlic, continue stirring until the onions are soft and fragrant, next add your oregano, rosemary and bay leaf, stir gently for a moment and then add your plum tomatoes as well as all the juice in the can, mix well and bring to a simmer. While your sauce is simmering, slice your sausage into 1/2” rounds and add to the sauce, next add your drained beans, spinach, salt and pepper, mix, cover and place in the oven for 35 - 45 minutes.
While your dish is in the oven, heat a saucepan over medium heat and toss in your torn bread (I like to use almost stale bread for this if it is on hand), toss for about 2 minutes and then add your olive oil garlic and parsley, and saute for an additional 2 - 4 minutes until your breadcrumbs are nice, oil coated toasty and the garlic is fragrant and dreamy. Do make sure the pan is not too hot so you do not burn your garlic. I often remove mine from the heat for a moment when i add them to the pan. Now, mix well, add salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
When serving your dish, top with the breadcrumbs and a spoonful of grated pecorino romano! I like to dunk my breadcrumbs and let them soak in the sauce. Guys this dish is so satisfying!!!! And remember, the sausage is really going to make a difference here, the better you use the better your final product will be! If you are in Brooklyn, I am a huge fan of Landi's and Le Torre's Pork Store.
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