So: how quick is “quick”? Realistically, this meal might be enjoyed after two hours of prep and cooking, which doesn’t sound too “quick,” right? But I didn’t care. The advertised “quickness” of the “Quick-Time Sausage Cassoulet,” from jamieoliver.com, was not the selling point, for me. I was wooed by the notion of sausage and beans and wine and croutons in an herby casserole. And indeed, this thick, rich dish won me over.

I managed to halve this recipe, to make four servings. I overcame the awkwardness of prepping the casserole dish on the stove top, before it went into the oven. I did, however, first fry my strips of bacon in a separate small pan for approximately 4 minutes. Remember to save the water that you soak your dried mushrooms in; you’ll add it to the pan with the canned tomatoes and canned beans. I enjoyed the abstract pouring of wine (I used a 2008 Argentinian Malbec) into the pan; it reduced in approximately 4 minutes. I used eight Niman Ranch bratwursts and added 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to my casserole dish, before it went into the oven. I was rustically satisfied, after my generous pourings of olive oil and wine. Golden crispness arrived in 40 minutes.

I heeded Jamie Oliver’s suggestion of mashed potatoes with the sausage cassoulet. The “Mashed Potato Casserole,” from cookscountry.com, was an indulgent, puffy dish that was fun for all ages. I managed to halve this recipe too — but still got to use 3/4 stick of butter! I used vegetable-bouillon broth instead of chicken broth and “greased” my 1qt. casserole dish with organic vegetable shortening. See this casserole puff up and begin to brown after 45 minutes in the oven. When you have the time to make your mashed potatoes a bit fancier, definitely do this.

PRICES
Dried Porcini Mushrooms (handful) = $3.62
Red Onion (1) = .30¢
Canned Plum Tomatoes (21 oz.) = $2.50
Canned Cannellini Beans (14 oz.) = $1.56
Bratwurst (8) = $10.74
Russet Potatoes (2 lbs.) = $2.04

RECIPES: set aside a “casserole day” and enjoy your treats
PREP TIMES:
sit down to your meal after 2 hours or more
TASTES: see the sausage, beans, crusty bread, smell the wine, appreciate the heartiness; mashed potatoes are dressed up in a creamy soufflé that can’t be ignored

And just when you thought I got this “casserole” bug out of my system … next time I want to make the “Cottage Pie,” from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food! Crazy, huh? Come back to my site on Sunday, January 9, to see another lovely meal.