quick cassoulet

using the weekend's white beans, you can have a tasty cassoulet in no time!  warning: this is not a light meal, it's good and hearty winter food! quick cassoulet (adapted from williams sonoma food made fast slow cooker cookbook):

using about one pound of sausages, slit each diagonally several times on each side.  in a skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil. add the sausages and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and cooked through, about 10 minutes. transfer to a cutting board.

in a separate skillet over medium heat, warm another tablespoon of olive oil.  add 5 slices of thick cut bacon and sauté until it starts to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.  stir in 4 cups of white beans, 1 spring of fresh thyme, 1 can of diced plum tomatoes, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.  season with salt and pepper.

cut the sausages crosswise into bite-size pieces. butter a 3-quart ovenproof pan or gratin dish and distribute the sausages evenly in the pan. spoon the bean mixture over the sausages, removing and discarding the thyme sprig.  spread 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs evenly on top and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of melted butter.  bake until the beans are bubbly and the crumb topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, then serve.