Caramelized Onion Cassoulet
3 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. table salt, divided
1 gallon cold water
1 lb. dried great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over
5 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1½ lbs. yellow onions, cut into ¼-inch slices
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
5 cups plus ¼ cup vegetable broth, divided
4 sprigs thyme
2 sage leaves
2 fresh bay leaves
3 large celery stalks, ends removed and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
8 oz. collard greens, stems removed, sliced into ¼-inch strips
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. minced garlic, divided
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. baby red potatoes, quartered
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Companion Bread French baguette
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
• In a large bowl, dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in the water. Add the beans and soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse the beans well. Set aside.
• In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablespoons canola oil. Add the onions, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent, about 10 minutes.
• Reduce the heat to low and stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pan 1 to 1½ hours, until the onions are dark brown, viscous and sweet.
• Deglaze the pan by adding ¼ cup vegetable broth and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then remove the onions and any remaining broth. Set aside.
• Make a bouquet garni (herb bundle) by placing the thyme, sage and bay leaves in the middle of a 12-by-12-inch square of cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth closed with a knot and set aside.
• In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil. Saute the celery and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the greens and cook until they are bright green and wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Using a wooden spoon, coat the vegetables with the tomato paste. Cook until the paste darkens, about 1 minute.
• Add the remaining 5 cups vegetable broth and deglaze the Dutch oven. Then add the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, caramelized onions, bouquet garni, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
• Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the beans and potatoes are tender, about 1 to 1¼ hours.
• Meanwhile, arrange the oven racks to make space for the Dutch oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Place half the baguette in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to make breadcrumbs.
• In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil then add the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic. Saute 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs to the skillet and toast, stirring frequently until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the breadcrumbs from the heat and stir in the parsley.
• Uncover the Dutch oven and remove and discard the bouquet garni. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the cassoulet, then place in the oven and bake until the breadcrumbs brown, about 20 minutes.
• Remove the cassoulet from the oven and serve hot with the remaining baguette.