By Leslie Kelly

The classic French cassoulet is an essential winter ritual that involves a long list of steps, but uncomplicated versions make it easy to enjoy this warming dish without all the fuss, especially if you're a fan of slow cooking dried beans to have on hand.

Photo via Meredith Publishing

There are many variations of this traditional preparation that was once considered a peasant dish. Take away the French accent, and you've basically got beans and weenies. Whether it's a veggie version, one featuring chicken instead of duck or one prepared in a slow cooker instead of a cast iron casserole, all cassoulets can head straight for the next level by wearing a fresh herb topping better known as gremolata mixed with breadcrumbs. What's that? Some kind of French and Italian fusion?

Try this flavorful breadcrumb hack on an easy cassoulet or on gooey, baked mac'n'cheese or toss it in salads as an alternative to croutons, sprinkle it on cream of tomato soup, and the brightness of the lemon zest adds a whole new dimension to all sorts of dishes.

Mix ingredients together and sprinkle over cassoulet in the last 15 minutes of cooking, or until it becomes golden and toasty.

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