Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cassoulet ~ a lighter, easier version of one of France’s greatest and richest stews from the South of France




Cassoulet, pronounced [ka.su.lɛ], is a hearty, slow-cooked, meat studded stew from the South of France. The name cassoulet comes from the traditional cooking dish, the cassole, a deep, round earthenware pot with slanting sides.

A typical French cassoulet contains the traditional ingredients of duck confit, goose, pork or bacon, sometimes mutton or veal, but always combined with wine and beans. Some might call it the great- granddaddy of Boston baked beans. Toulouse and Carcassonne, villages in southwestern France, are thought to be the capital of cassoulet. In France cassoulet is often found in a glass jar on the shelf in the store. When we were staying in Saint-Remy de Provence, we actually bought a jarred cassoulet from our favorite boucherie and found it to be of excellent quality.



This is a lighter version and uses chicken as the base of the meats. I don’t know about you, but duck confit isn’t easily found where we live nor does it come cheap if it can be found. I’ve used traditional white beans, or haricots blancs as they’re called in France. Feel free to substitute your favorite bean as I did in this cassoulet using black-eyed peas (recipe here). Interestingly enough, the black-eyed peas brought a certain smokiness to the dish and a nice change from tradition.


A word of caution about cooking the bacon. You don’t want crispy bacon in this. Its texture would be all wrong and it would get lost in the stew. Cook your bacon, but don’t let it get crispy or too browned.

If you’re looking for a dish that can be made in advance, cassoulet is perfect. Stick it in the refrigerator after it’s cooled, then reheat it later and you’re good to go. This is also the perfect time to use those left-over chicken breasts that you’ve cooked in advance for salads and sandwiches. As you know, almost every week I cook chicken for that purpose.

The butter crusted brown topping provides a crunchy texture to the creamy rich, garlicky beans. Be sure that the bread you use is dry, otherwise the topping will become mushy. Served with a green salad dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, cassoulet makes a nice comforting dinner in front of the fire.



Cassoulet – the light version 
Adapted from Eating Well with Bert Wolf - serves 4 to 6.

1 lb dried white beans, Great Northern or navy beans
3 bay leaves
A couple of large sprigs of fresh rosemary
5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 large chicken breasts, with bones & skin
4 oz thick bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces, cooked but not crisp
1 tablespoon fat reserved from the bacon
8 oz little link sausages, cooked & cut into 1” pieces, or ¼ pound dried sausage, cut into ¼” slices
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
2 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped with juices
2 cups low sodium, low fat chicken broth
1 cup or more dried fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Soak beans overnight in a large stockpot filled with water. Drain the beans and put into a pot with fresh water to cover by four inches. Tie the three herbs together with a string and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. After one hour, add salt and taste for doneness. When done, drain beans, discard herbs and add freshly ground black pepper to taste and more salt if necessary. Put into an attractive oven-proof casserole you can use for serving as well as cooking.

Preheat oven to 350. Rub chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 35-45 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from oven, discard skin and bones and cut into one inch pieces. Add to beans along with cooked bacon and cut up sausages.

Sauté the garlic in a skillet in about 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over the bean mixture and blend well. Mix bread crumbs with softened butter and spread over beans to make a crust.

Place beans in a 325 degree oven and bake, covered, for 45 – 60 minutes. If beans get dry, carefully add more broth while not disturbing crumb crust. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until crumb topping is browned.



This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, Carol's Chatter Food on Friday, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.

38 comments:

  1. Sam, this is a wonderful version of cassoulet. I love everything about it. Will give it a try when we get settled in Florida.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds very flavorful! I love beans and bet it smells great the whole time it's cooking:@)

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are tempting me to try cassoulet again. The first (and only) time I made the dish was from Julia Child's recipe. At the time, I had a toddler and an infant. The cassoulet was a long process and a messy one. There seemed to be grease all over the kitchen, myself and the babies!! The finished dish was delicious, however. Your recipe sounds much simpler and just as delicious.

    Best,
    Bonnie

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yum! We made Cassoulet last week in my French cooking classes. Out of everything we made (which was a lot!) I think Cassoulet was my favorite! I like your version, much easier to do here (without the duck confit) with ingredients that are readily available!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with Bonnie -- I only once made cassoulet the traditional way and it was a messy, process that overtook the kitchen and my time. Your simpler version is quite tempting. And duck confit? Forget it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your lighter version of cassoulet is great! I love everything about it.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  7. This recipe looks and sound oh so delicious. It's been awhile since I made cassoulet. I like the idea of using black eye peas too.

    Thanks for the recipe.

    FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete
  8. A friend, who has traveled to France, often reminds me of having cassoulet and how wonderful it was_and repeatedly says, "I need to fix that for you". I wait no longer! will definitely try this, Sam. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm pinning this I love that you lightened this recipe up but kept the basic flavors.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Little Sizzlers? I am laughing! It's hard to find Toulouse sausage, but I found a place in NYC that makes garlic sausage in the tradition of the French (perfect for cassoulet).
    I will be trying your lighter version with chicken, since I have no duck anyway! Thanks Sam!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have always wanted to make cassoulet but have been a bit intimidated by some of the recipes I've seen. This sounds so delicious, Sam, and is perfect comfort food for a blustery, rainy weekend ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh this looks really good, and I love great northern beans, well black eyed peas too, and pinto beans...anyway I have never made a cassoulet before and you made it sound like I could do this! I like that you can make it ahead! I have the perfect dish for this too!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd eat that - it looks delicious and I like it being a good use for the chicken taking up room in the fridge.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have always wanted to make cassoulet, but the duck confit stopped me. Thank you for this delicious looking version Sam!

    ReplyDelete
  15. MY DSIL makes a very good cassoulet..

    THis one looks as good as his..C'est beau Sam:)

    ReplyDelete
  16. i have never heard of this...looks and sounds fabulous!! the ingredients..yum!!!
    when we toured france we were young and poor so all we ate was bread.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hello Sam

    This looks delicious and perfect for these cooler days. I will be making this one.

    Have a glorious weekend

    Helenx

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've always wanted to try to make cassoulet but the duck confit thing held me back. This version looks terrific and I'll try it with black-eyed peas. And maybe with thighs instead of breasts as I really prefer dark meat. Thanks, Sam!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have never had a cassoulet...looks irresistible and perfect for the cold days.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Tis the season for slow braised meats and I must give this a try. Never made a cassoulet. Wish I had pretty little soup bowls like that. They're perfect for that dish.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This simplified version sounds and looks amazing. I am anxious to make this soon.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

    ReplyDelete
  22. I can find duck confit but only if I drive for almost 30 minutes, and you're right - not cheap. I love this version with chicken breast! It sounds perfect for this time of year.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wonderful dish which needed some lightening up. Great job, Sam! Wish I had a taste.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is soul satisfying. Served up with a glass of wine this would damn comforting. Love it.

    Velva

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nothing better on a cold night than a cassoulet, Sam. I'm thrilled to see your lighter version. Besides, I always had to order the duck confit.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love your lighter version of cassoulet. It will be perfect for the cold weather that lies ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This is total comfort food, at it's best. Plus, it's pretty healthy, too! Win!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I am on a roll with French cuisine at the moment. I have just made Boeuf Bourgougne & Coq au Vin (not sure about the spelling) but they were both delicious! Must give this one a go - it looks equally yummy!

    Melissah

    ReplyDelete
  29. Good Morning Sam,
    I saw your lovely Cassoulet when you brought it to the party and I could hardly wait to come over and take a look at it. I just love the lighter version of this classic recipe, it has been put on my to cook list and I will soon be tasting it, can't wait!

    Have a fabulous weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

    ReplyDelete
  30. This cassoulet looks just heavenly! It has a little bit of everything, smokiness, herbiness and a lot of savory flavors and textures. I'm pinning this to make on a later date.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Always looking for lighter versions of French classics. Thanks for this delicious recipe!

    Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

    ReplyDelete
  32. A comforting French stew the cassoulet is perfect for the stormy weather we're faced with right now!!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I've never had cassoulet before - this looks very hearty and delicious! Perfect for a cold evening.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I have always thought of making cassoulet and have no idea what I've been waiting for! It looks so delicious and inviting and perfect for this time of year!

    ReplyDelete
  35. This is fabulous Sam... I am guilty of loving duck confit but it is heavy and this is a perfect alternative... Printing this off... Thank you as always for your marvellous recipes... xv

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi Sam,
    I featured your recipe today on foodie friday. We are doing OK:feed, with wifi at the shelter. We are hoping for power in next week some time.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think I just read my favorite adjective of all times "meat studded". I want to use that frequently from now on. This weekend I plan to spend time with my meat studded grills.

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam