Photographer: Todd Zawistowski
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp using a heavy, large ovenproof pot. (A large cast iron Dutch oven works well for this.) Drain bacon on paper towels and reserve. Carefully pour hot bacon grease out of pot and discard.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to same pot. Heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage slices and meat. Cook until brown, 15–20 minutes. Remove from pot and reserve. Add onion, leeks, and garlic to pot. Sauté until vegetables soften, 8–10 minutes. Stir in rosemary, thyme, sage and pepper flakes. Add brandy to vegetables and herbs. Simmer until brandy is almost evaporated, 4–5 minutes.
Stir in beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and tomato paste. Add sausage and freshly ground pepper. Bring pot to a boil. Cover pot and place in preheated oven. Bake 30 minutes. (Up to this point, cassoulet can be cooled, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, giving flavors time to meld. To reheat, cover the cassoulet, then warm in a preheated 350° oven, for 30–40 minutes, adding more chicken broth, if cassoulet seems dry.)
While cassoulet warms, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs. Cook until light brown, 3–4 minutes. Place crumbs in a bowl, then mix in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Carefully spoon the breadcrumb topping over cassoulet. Bake uncovered for 15–20 minutes, until cassoulet is a beautiful golden brown. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and serve. Serves 8 to 10.