Pork and beans go together like peanut butter and bacon jelly and frankly, we adore any dish that includes our favorite meat of all time. We're sure most of you bacon connoisseurs have had sweet pork and beans on a warm summer day. You've probably even had them on a cold winter day to warm you up inside. You really don't need any reason in particular to marry the two, other than the fact they feed the soul when they are together. But since we like you, and we like it when you treat yo' self, we're getting a little fancy by giving you the French take (also known as a cassoulet) on this cozy comfort food.
A cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat, pork skin, and white beans. But this is not your mama's typical casserole. While the traditional recipe calls for a variety of meat typically pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes mutton, we added our Smoked Lardons (thick bacon pieces cut into 1/4" morsels)—crispy on the outside, hot and chewy in the middle. There are a few options you can use for white beans but, we opted for Cannellini. Cannellini beans are the largest of the white bean family with their traditional kidney shape, they can also be referred to as White Kidney Beans. Meatier than a Navy or Great Northern bean, they have a nutty, earthy flavor, that pairs well with the smokiness of our lardons. These creamy Italian White Beans are soaked before cooking to help remove some of those indigestible sugars that give you the toots. Then we cook them low and slow with onion, Parmesan rind, garlic, bay leaves, and salt. We topped this creamy Cassoulet with a mix of crisp buttery breadcrumbs and salty parmesan.
Are you salivating yet? Good! Get to cookin'!
Bacon Cassoulet (Baked Beans with Bacon)
This is The Baconer's French take (also known as a cassoulet) on the cozy comfort food of Baked Beans.
8 oz pack Smoked Lardons
2 cups dried Cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 medium onions, 1 halved, 1 finely diced
1 Parmesan rind
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 head garlic, halved crosswise, plus 4 cloves, finely chopped, divided
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
4 thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
1½ cups coarse breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain beans and place in a large heavy bottomed pot with halved onion, Parmesan rind, halved garlic head, bay leaves and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender, 1–1½ hours.
Cook bacon in a skillet using The Baconer’s preferred method.Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, keeping fat in skillet.
Sauté diced onions, diced shallots, thyme sprigs, and half of the chopped garlic until onions begin to caramelize about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs.
Preheat oven to 400°F
Transfer beans (separating out the cooking liquid and removing the onion, garlic and parmesan rind) to a large bowl and mix in bacon, onion mixture, ½ cup grated Parmesan, and 1½–2 cups cooking liquid (most of the liquid); season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the beans to a shallow 1½-qt. baking dish or into individual-size ramekins.
Combine breadcrumbs, olive oil, remaining garlic, remaining Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover top of beans with bread mixture.
Cook until liquid is thickened and bubbling and crumbs are golden brown, 30 minutes or so. Cool slightly before serving.