Cheesy Potato and Sausage Gratin

This recipe, inspired by our trip to southwestern France, is a cross between cassoulet and gratin. It's been my experience that even kids who revolt when their foods touch will like spooning up the creamy potatoes and mining for sausage, carrots, and beans. You can make your own mashed potatoes or cheat with the boxed kind (as, believe it or not, the French do quite often).

Hands-On Time: 1 hour
Ready In: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

    4 cups mashed potatoes
    1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1 pound (3 or 4 links) mild Italian sausage, casings removed
    1 onion, thinly sliced
    1/4 cup white wine (nonalcoholic, if you prefer)
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (a mix of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, savory, and bay leaf)
    1 bunch red Swiss chard (leaves and stems), coarsely chopped (10 to 12 ounces)
    8 ounces (half a bag) chopped baby carrots
    1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
    Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat mashed potatoes in a saucepan. When very hot, sprinkle in half the shredded cheese and stir until completely incorporated. Cover and set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees, then heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sausages and break them into chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes more. Stir in wine and broth, then herbes de Provence, chard, and carrots. Cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, 15 minutes. Stir in beans; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour stew into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, then spread cheesy mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle remaining cheese over potatoes and bake until cheese is melted, 30 minutes. (If you want the cheese to brown, run the casserole under the broiler for a couple more minutes.) Let sit about 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with a side salad for the grown-ups.

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