Vegan Cassoulet

I love this Emile Henry cassoulet pot from Sur La Table, pictured at right in the "Fig" color. Cassoulet, a French dish of braised white beans, is usually loaded with duck confit and/or sausage. But when I had a great vegan version in a San Francisco restaurant, I decided to re-create it at home. How hard could it be? I put together the version below, which turned out great. The breadcrumbs are of massive importance, kind of what makes the dish, and making your own fresh ones is the way to go.

Vegan Cassoulet
Mirepoix: 2 leeks, 1 celery rib, 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
Olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
3 cups cooked white or whitish beans (I used green flageolet, cooked them myself in the trimmings from the mirepoix, and used the bean broth for the vegetable broth)
1 can diced tomatoes (the normal-sized can, not the big one)
Vegetable broth (make your own from boiling water with the vegetable trimmings, a bay leaf, and salt)
Some white bread that is stale or toasted, made into crumbs, then sautéed in some olive oil with salt and pepper
Parsley (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In an oven-safe braising dish or pot, sauté the mirepoix in olive oil on the stovetop until soft.

3. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, stir, then add the beans, tomatoes, and 2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer.

4. Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes without a lid.

5. Remove from the oven and top with breadcrumbs. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and return the pot to the oven to brown the breadcrumbs, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.