This post comes with apologies. Apologies to my french friends, to purists, and to anyone who’s looking for a “real” Cassoulet. This isn’t that. It’s not french. It’s not authentic. It’s not “real” Cassoulet. On the other hand, this is something you can make at home here in the states, using ingredients you can buy at your local supermarket. Also, it’s delicious.
Cassoulet is one of those soulful, rich dishes that, while built from simple ingredients, somehow simmers down to be greater than the sum of its parts. The classic, southern French, bean and meat stew is a rich, fortifying peasant dish that can stand entirely on its own but is even better with a glass of good Burgundy, some fresh baked bread, and a simple salad of bitter greens. The two classical preparations – originating from Carcassonne and Castelnaudary – both utilize duck, duck fat, and local sausages. Here, we will use chicken thighs and more accessible American smoked sausages and bacon. It is not a traditional cassoulet per se, but it is a delicious meal that leaves you satisfied, and can easily scale to feed a crowd.
Chicken Thigh "Cassoulet"Course: Dinner, MainCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
4 cups water
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup dry navy beans
4 pieces thick or dinner-cut bacon
12-14 oz smoked sausage
4 cups chicken stock
1 rib celery
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
½ cup white wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
- Soak the beans in 4 cups of water, and ½ tsp of baking soda for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Wash, peel, trim, and dice the carrot into ⅛-inch pieces.
- Peel, trim, and cut the onion into a ⅛-inch dice.
- Wash, trim, and finely dice the celery.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together into a bundle. This is traditionally called a bouquet garni.
- Season the chicken well with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a Dutch oven or other large oven-proof pot over medium heat.
- Sear the chicken, skin-side down, in the Dutch oven. Cook until the skin is lightly browned, and a good amount of fat has rendered from the skin (about 5 minutes). Work in batches as necessary.
- Add the finely diced onions, carrots, and celery – a mixture called a ‘mirepoix’ – to the rendered fat.
- Cook over medium high heat until the mirepoix begins to brown and caramelizes slightly.
- Deglaze with white wine, stirring well to get all the deeply flavored brown bits into the liquid.
- Reduce the heat.
- Add beans and chicken stock.
- Add remaining salt and black pepper.
- Tuck the bouquet garni into the stock.
- Sink the bacon and sausages in the beans and arrange the chicken pieces on top.
- Transfer to a 350° oven and cook until the beans are softened and most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with crusty bread with cultured butter, good wine, and a mustardy green salad.
- Adding a sachet of unflavored gelatin to the chicken stock before addition makes this dish even more unctuous.