Simple Sunday Cassoulet

When researching recipes for this classic French stew, I found them complicated, some requiring two to three days of prep. I couldn’t help but think there must be a better way. Then, as I got into the ingredients lists, it was mainly duck and stuffed sausages. I’ll let you in on a teeny, tiny secret: Chicken thighs, braised low and slow, will win a taste battle with duck confit any day. Shhhhh — don’t go spreading that secret around. But take a look at how I turned a three-day cooking nightmare into a two-hour Sunday braise with the most delightful recipe I may have ever created.

CASSOULET REIMAGINED

Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Inactive cook time: 90 minutes

  • 1 1/2 pounds sausages in casings (we chose Linguica sausage)*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 to 4 slices pancetta or prosciutto or unsmoked bacon; lightly smoked bacon works fine as well
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon piment d’espelette**
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch of red chili flakes
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
  • 2 15-ounce cans white cannellini beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a Dutch oven or enamel-covered cast-iron pan with a lid, brown sausages in olive oil over medium heat, 3 to 4 minutes. Cook them through just enough to get color, not all the way through. Remove and set aside.
  2. Season chicken thighs lightly with salt and pepper, and brown them on either side without cooking through, then remove. Caramelized bits of goodness will begin building on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add bacon, shallots, and carrots. Caramelize the bacon. Season with piment d’espelette, salt, and pepper, onion powder, and chili flakes. Add rosemary sprigs.
  4. Once bacon is caramelized and shallots are cooked, add garlic. Add a touch more olive oil if the pan needs it. Cook garlic for about a minute, then add tomatoes. Using a wooden spoon, work the brown caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. This process is called deglazing.
  5. Bring tomatoes to a simmer, and add drained and rinsed beans. Tuck the browned chicken and sausages into the stew. Bake covered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 60 to 90 minutes. Once stew is finished baking, top with crunchy pan-fried bread crumbs and enjoy.

PAN FRIED BUTTER & HERB BREAD CRUMBS

  • 1 cube butter
  • 3 cups stale Italian country bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To prepare bread crumbs, melt butter in a large skillet, and add bread, herbs, salt, and pepper. Sauté until bread begins to brown. Serve warm on top of the cassoulet.

 


* Mild Italian sausage or bratwurst works beautifully in this dish. Use at least one sausage per serving. I chose Linguica for its spicy, aromatic flavor, and its deep reddish color.

** Piment d’espelette is a powdered, mild, French pepper, similar to paprika. If you can’t find piment d’espelette, paprika works just fine.

 

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