The Dish | White Bean Casserole with Giant Croutons

This elegant rustic casserole feeds a crowd on a cool night. Flageolet beans, a French variety which resemble licorice pastels, retain their delicate shape and celadon skin exceptionally well as they cook to soft creaminess, a great quality in a bean.

This casserole showcases how meltingly sweet cabbage, garlic and carrots can become when cooked low and slow, a sweetness highlighted by earthy mushrooms, crispy croutons, and a tart relish. Oversized croutons and delicate beans contrast nicely, and create a dramatic presentation when served in a decorative broiler-to-table baking dish.

INGREDIENTS:

Charred lemon-scallion relish
  • 2 large lemon, washed, thinly sliced crosswise, and seeds removed
  • 2 bunches of scallions (14-16 scallions), washed, root end trimmed
  • 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped and divided 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Beans
  • 5 large carrots, washed well
  • 1 large celery stalked, washed well, trimmed of tough bottom and top ends 
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups dried flageolet beans (or other small white beans like baby limas, navy beans or cannellini beans)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup store-bought mushroom jerky or dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 small green cabbage
  • 1 medium leek
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Croutons
  • 1 small loaf day-old ciabatta bread (or any bread you like), cut into 1” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

DIRECTIONS:

For the relish
  • Preheat the broiler. Place the lemons and scallions on a baking sheet and cook under the broiler until tender and charred, watching closely.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then chop along with the most of the parsley (reserving about ¾ cup for scattering on the casserole) and salt, until the relish takes on moisture from the interior of the lemons and scallions, and has reached the consistency of a relish.
For the beans
  • Turn the oven down to 300F.
  • Peel the carrots into long, thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler, until all that’s left are thin and difficult-to-peel nubbins, which should yield 4-5 cups of carrot ribbons. Set the ribbons aside. Dice the remaining carrot nubbins (to yield about ½ cup) into roughly ¼” cubes; the pieces don’t need to be perfect in shape or size, since this is a rustic dish. Dice the celery (to yield about ½ cup) and the onion (to yield about 1 ¼ cups) to a similar size and rustic imperfection as the carrot. 
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, lidded, oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced carrot, celery, onion and sliced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring uncovered, until the vegetables begin to soften and turn golden. 
  • Add the beans and the water to the pot, then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, place it in the preheated oven, and cook for about 1 hour, until the beans are starting to become tender.
  • While the beans cook, chop the mushroom jerky chopped into ½” pieces. If using the dried shiitakes, rehydrate them by soaking them in boiling water for 20 minutes; then remove and discard the stems, and chop the caps into ½” pieces. Slice the cabbage lengthwise into 1” wide strips, similar in size to the carrot ribbons (to yield about 2 cups). Trim off the root end of the leek, and slice the entire leek (green and white parts) crosswise into ¼” thick rounds. If the leek is gritty, rinse and dry the slices (I like to use a salad spinner for this task). 
  • At about the one-hour mark, add the carrot ribbons, chopped mushrooms, cabbage strips, and leek slices to the pot, along with the salt and pepper. Replace the lid and cook for another 45 minutes to one hour, until the beans are fully tender and creamy. Gently stir the beans and vegetables every 15 minutes, checking the beans for tenderness and adding boiling water as needed to keep them moist and saucy but not drowning in liquid. If you have large or older beans, the dish may need up to 1 ½ hours in the oven, so hold off adding the beans until 90 minutes into the cooking. 
  • When the beans are tender, remove the pot from the oven and switch the oven to broil. 
For the croutons
  • Pour the hot beans into your favorite broiler-safe casserole dish, large enough for beans to spread out and fill the pan to about 2/3 high.
  • Top with the bread cubes, drizzle with oil and salt and put under the broiler until the croutons are golden brown and crunchy on top (they will be a bit juicy on the bottom from contact with the gratin, like the croutons in French onion soup). Watch the broiler like a hawk—charred scallions taste great, charred bread crumbs not so much.
  • Serve piping hot.
  • Scatter the reserved parsley all over the top, and serve with the charred lemon-scallion relish on the side.

This recipe will appear in my forthcoming What’s for Dinner: Plant-rich feasts for any occasion, available for pre-order now. The book is the first volume in an eco-cooking series, meeting the dinner challenge with a set of full-bodied, vegan and vegetarian entrées, plus plant-based starters, sides and desserts, meant to anchor celebratory meals.


Reprinted with permission from Stone Pier Press

4 thoughts on “The Dish | White Bean Casserole with Giant Croutons

  1. Sending congratulations and applause to Piedmonter Susan Miller Davis on the publication of her first volume in an eco-cooking series. Forward thinking and innovative recipes for a healthier community. Bravo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *