If you love cookbooks, and don't own Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin, add it to your list. Everything in it is delicious, fresh, approachable. Some of the recipes are longish, but not terribly complicated, and hey, sometimes greatness takes a little effort. I'm down with that.
Like this bean gratin. It's quite simple, really, it just requires a bit of forethought.
The recipe is written for flageolet beans, the traditional cassoulet bean. If you're organized, and planning ahead, put your hands on flageolets because I've made this gratin with them, and by substituting navy beans, and honestly, the flageolets have it. Their texture is firmer, their flavor more pronounced. That said, the gratin is awfully delicious made with navy beans as well.
This gratin is meatless, and could be easily made vegan (use olive oil for the breadcrumbs), but is so loaded with flavor that you'll wonder...hmmm...are you sure there's not a spot of duck fat in there somewhere? A smidge of lamb? Baaaaa? The crusty top is the perfect foil for creamy beans, and the caramelized onions scattered on the bottom are as delightful to discover as your high school crush on Facebook.
I apologize for the rather lame pics - I made this dish for a group of lady food blogger friends, and was chatting and sipping bubbles and not very focused (pun!) on my camera. In addition to the beans, I made a mess of pork ribs - pork-n-beans! - but the rest of the meal was gorgeously filled out by my guests.
Here's a tip: Invite food bloggers to your next potluck dinner. Wow the deliciousness.
Kale Salad with Apples, Pecans & Smoked Cheese from Kelli Abrahamian of I Had a Delicious Time.
Homemade baguette from Shaina Olmanson of Food for My Family.
I did not photograph (insert head slap, then see above chatting and sipping) the bounty of olives, almonds, and cheeses brought by Kate Selner of Kate In the Kitchen. I also forgot to snap pics of the Cheesecake in a Jar brought by Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker, gorgeously labeled and filled with creamy-dreamy heaven (check out the pics on her site - swoon). Amanda also shared her darling new Baby Eddie! Seriously yum, both the cheesecake and Eddie.
White Bean Gratin
From Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
7 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small sprig rosemary
1 chile de arbol, crumbled (substitute a pinch of cayenne)
1/2 c. diced onion, plus 5 c. thinly sliced onions
1/2 c. diced fennel
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. thyme leaves, divided
1 1/2 c. dried flageolets (or navy beans)
5 Tbsp. butter
2 c. fresh breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free bread)
2 tsp. chopped parsley
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Heat a medium pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 4 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and add the rosemary sprig and crumbled chile. Let them sizzle in the oil a minute. Add the diced onion, fennel, garlic, 1 Tbsp. thyme, and the bay leaf, sitrring a minute or two, until the onion is wilted. Add the flageolets, and cook a few more minutes, stirring to coat the beans with the oil.
Cover the beans with water by 3 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low, and place a paper towel over the beans to keep them under the surface. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add 3 tsp. of (Kosher) salt to the beans. Continue cooking on a low simmer about 1 hour, until the beans are tender. As the beans cook, add water as necessary (but don't add too much - you want these juices to be rich and a little starchy, since they will be an important part of the finished gratin). Remove the beans from the heat, discard the paper towel, and let them cool in their juices. Taste for seasoning.
While the beans cook, caramelize the sliced onions. Heat a large saute pan or Dutch oven over high heat for a minute. Swirl in the remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil, and add the sliced onions, 2 tsp.thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook 6 minutes, stirring often. Turn the heat down to medium, and stir in 1 Tbsp. butter. Cook 15 minutes, stirring often and scraping with a wooden spoon, until the onions start to caramelize. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are a deep golden brown. Spread the onions on the bottom of a 9x9-inch (or equivalent) gratin dish. Spoon the flageolets into the grain dish with a good amount of their cooking juices. The beans will expand a little as they bake, so fill the gratin dish only three-quarters full (reserve any extra beans for use in another dish).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl with the remaining tsp. of thyme and the chopped parsley. Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook about 3 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs, let cool a minute or two, and toss to combine.
Sprinkle the brown butter breadcrumbs over the beans, and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the gratin is bubbling, nicely browned, and crispy on top.