The addition of onion and mustard to some baked beans recipes published in New England in the 19th century was likely based on traditional cassoulet recipes from Staffordshire, England which utilized mustard, beans, and leeks.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baked_beans
This is not the recipe I expected to be creating when I set out to research it. Wikipedia’s baked beans article (quoted above) references a “cassoulet recipe from Staffordshire” featuring mustard and leeks. I tried several variations of search terms and found several different documents referencing this alleged connection between a “cassoulet” from Staffordshire and American baked beans recipes, but no where can I find any sort of recipe for such a dish. So I settled for searching for something like “cassoulet leeks mustard”, and based my recipe around those results.
Now of course cassoulet is traditionally a hearty, meat heavy, dish slowly baked for hours until a delicious crust forms from the gelatin in the stock and the starch from the beans. The French would probably tell you that a vegetarian cassoulet is impossible- it’s simply a different dish. Outside of France, however, cassoulet has come to mean any bean based casserole. There was even a tuna cassoulet in the results I looked at. Because the recipes I was working from were so wide ranging the common ingredients turned out to be totally vegetarian, even vegan if you substitute some oil for the butter on the bread crumbs. There are of course, some meat option that made it into the optional ingredients, but overall this turned out as a flavorful and balanced vegetarian dish. Still hearty and filling, but significantly lighter than the traditional cassoulet.
Cooking the leeks down slowly releases their flavors, and the mustard add some tang. The dish definitely doesn’t taste like duck fat, but it is never-the-less full of it’s own set of flavors.
I went with a quick shortcut version, using canned beans, that puts dinner on the table in a little over an hour- compared to the two days my traditional cassoulet recipe recommends. I will say that my crust could have been crispier- perhaps next time I’ll finish it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown a little more, or maybe wait and add the bread crumbs after some of the liquid has reduced so they don’t get as soggy to start with.
Prep: 20 Minutes
Cook: 40 Minutes
Total: 1 hour
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
½ carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 ¾ teaspoons wholegrain or dijon mustard
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 ⅔ cup vegetable stock
1 ⅔ cup chicken stock
14 oz. canned cannellini beans, rinnsed and drained
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
2 ½ Tablespoons parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs
1 can butterbeans, in place of cannellini
cooked barley, to serve
¾ lb. fresh cranberry beans, cooked in place of canned beans
⅛ oz dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
2 Tablespoons cremé fraiche
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram
150 g diced tomatoes in juice
½ lb dried tarbais beans, cooked, in place of canned beans
2 Tablespoons peppercorns
¼ lb garlic sausage, sliced
1 leg duck confit
⅝ cup frozen peas
1 pinch salt for bread crumbs
1 pinch ground cloves
1 slice fresh bread, crumbled, in place of bread crumbs
5/8 cup scallion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Parmegiano-Reggiano, shaved, for garnish.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Put olive oil and leeks in an oven proof skillet. Place over low heat and sweat for 15-20 minutes, until leeks are very soft. Raise heat to medium and add onion, celery and carrot. Saute for 5 minutes or so, until vegetables start to soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Stir in salt and pepper, mustard, thyme, bay leaf, stock and beans. Bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile mix bread crumbs, parsley, chopped thyme and melted butter.
When beans are hot, sprinkle bread crumb mixture over top and pop the pan into the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until top is nicely browned and crusty.