Before my fiance went vegan our "go to" for celebrating special occasions was a french restaurant, Meritage. I loved to order the specials or the vegetable trio and revel in the symmetry of richness and delicacy that is french cuisine. He, on the other hand, was hooked on the cassoulet with its rich slow-cooked meld of beans and meats.
When I saw the cassoulet recipe in Betty Goes Vegan, I knew it has to be on my list for testing for my next cookbook review. If it came even close to the meal from Meritage, I knew what would be on my Valentine's Day menu as an homage to our special occasions of the past with a dollop of compassion in the vegan preparation. However, since cassoulet is really just a french name for casserole, hot dish or chili - a hearty one dish meal often filled with nostalgia for home cooking - there was a good chance this would be something different entirely. And it was.
First, I fell victim to the rush of not reading the recipe thoroughly. I saw the 20-30 minute prep time in the intro and thought I could make the dish after work; however, once I started I realized it was meant to cook in the slow cooker for 2-3 hours. Yikes! I also began to question how much richness the dish would have since the vegetables were added to the slow cooker raw rather than browning them first. I couldn't help myself later in the cooking process when I went off recipe to deglaze the pan that I browned the tofurky italian sausage and gardein scallopini in - the browned bits are the best part!!!
The final deal breaker for this cassoulet being a substitute for the Meritage version was the consistency of the final product. Rather than a rich, almost creamy stew of beans this was a soup with abundant broth. Had we set out to make a bean soup we would have been satisfied with this outcome. With plenty of leftovers, I found the dish did develop in flavor on days 2 and 3, but it never broke down to that creamy rich goodness that comes when white beans melt away in to velvety sauce.