This spicy cassoulet from Food and Wine takes some advance planning, but the results are worth it. Soak the beans overnight, cook them the next morning and refrigerate, and then assemble the cassoulet and bake for dinner. Merguez sausages are spicy sausages made from mutton or beef; I used hot Italian sausages cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces instead.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for bacon preserved with celery salt and make sure your spices don’t contain colour or anti-caking agents. Use sausages and bread made with all-natural ingredients.

Soak the beans overnight

Cook bacon until fat is rendered

Add the vegetables to the bacon - this mixture will flavour the beans as they cook

Cook the beans until tender

Toast the spices for the harissa

Grind the toasted spices and combine with smoked paprika and cayenne to make the harissa

Brown the sausages

Brown the other vegetables, sprinkled with the harissa

When the cassoulet is assembled and baked, top with cubed bread

Cook under the broiler until the bread is browned and crisp

Harissa-spiced cassoulet


½ pound (250 g) thick-cut bacon, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely diced

1 celery rib, finely diced

2 medium carrots, finely diced, plus 2 large carrots, cut into 2 ½ -inch (6.35 cm) lengths

14 ounces (397 g) dried cannellini beans (2 cups/500 ml), soaked overnight and drained

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) cumin seeds

1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) coriander seeds

1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoked paprika

¾ teaspoon (3 ml) crushed red pepper

¼ cup (60 ml) plus 1 (15 ml) tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Twelve 2-ounce (57 g) merguez sausages

2 large sweet potatoes (1 ¼ pounds/625 g), peeled and cut into 2 ½ -inch (6.35 cm) pieces

3 turnips (¾ pound/375 g), peeled and cut into 2 ½ -inch (6.35 cm) pieces

4 ounces (113 g) rustic peasant bread, crusts removed, bread cut into ¼-inch (0.64 cm) dice (2 cups/500 ml)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) minced parsley

1 teaspoon (10 ml) grated lemon zest

Plain yogurt, for serving


In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery and diced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the beans, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer the beans until al dente, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add a generous pinch of salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain the beans, bacon and vegetables and transfer to a bowl; reserve 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper and grind the harissa blend into a powder.

Wipe out the casserole and heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil in it. Add the merguez and cook over moderate heat, until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the casserole.

Add the sweet potatoes, turnips and large carrots to the casserole. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes. Add the harissa spice blend and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bean mixture and the reserved 2 cups (500 ml) of cooking liquid and bring just to a simmer. Arrange the merguez on top. Cover and bake the cassoulet for about 1 hour, until the beans are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and uncover the cassoulet.

Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, toss the bread, parsley, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the bread over the cassoulet and broil until golden and crisp. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving. Pass yogurt at the table. Serves 10-12.

From Food and Wine