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Cassoulet

Richly flavoured cassoulet (French casserole) combines beans and meats into a hearty meal.


My version of a cassoulet is a simple yet rich combination of beans and vegetables with chicken, sausage, and pork, that is full of flavour and makes a filling and hearty meal.


Originating in the south of France, a traditional cassoulet (French casserole) contains a range of meats including beef, duck and lamb. Often, it also includes stewed tomatoes and other vegetables. I've elected to make a simpler version here, which also makes it more economical; however, if you have other meats on hand you wish to include, sear them at the same time as the chicken.


Making cassoulet can be time consuming, as its component ingredients are cooked in stages before finally being brought together. In this recipe, to speed things up a little, I have elected to use canned beans instead of dried. If you chose to use dried navy beans instead, soak them overnight and extend the cooking times below to ensure the beans are soft before transferring them out of the saucepan.


One thing that is key when making cassoulet is the breaking of the crust in the final stage of cooking. As a crust forms during baking, push it down into the casserole to allow the juices to flow over top. Do so every 20 to 30 minutes to create a rich, unforgettable crust.

 

Ingredients

(Makes 6 servings)


2x bouquet garni each with:

  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

beans:

  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 1, 15oz can (540ml) unsalted navy beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/4lb pork fatback, chopped

  • 2 pork sausages

  • 1 small whole sweet onion, peeled

  • 1 large clove garlic, whole

  • 1 bouquet garni

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

cassoulet:

  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil

  • 4 chicken drumsticks

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 stalk leek, white and pale green portions chopped

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup white wine (or additional chicken stock)

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

 

Directions

Prepare 2 bouquet garni by wrapping the herbs securely into bundles inside cheesecloth tied tight with kitchen string. Set aside.


In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add 6 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the drained navy beans and pork fatback. Return to a simmer then reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the sausages, whole onion, whole clove garlic, and 1 of the bouquet garni. Return to a simmer and cook uncovered until the sausage is thoroughly cooked and the pork fatback is tender (about 30 minutes). Remove the sausage and pork and set aside. Remove the whole onion, garlic clove and bouquet garni and discard. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, remove the beans from the saucepan and set aside in a bowl. Allow the remaining liquid in the saucepan to simmer and reduce by half (about 20 to 30 minutes). Reserve.


Season the chicken legs with the sea salt and ground black pepper then set aside. In a casserole dish suitable for stovetop use (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat, add the avocado oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken legs, turning them regularly to sear on all sides. When the chicken is browned, remove it and set aside. Add the chopped leek, carrot, and parsnip then sauté until softened and beginning to brown (about 12 to 15 minutes). Add the minced garlic and sauté an additional minute before adding the flour. Combine the flour with the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes to remove the raw flour flavour. Begin whisking in the wine. If the resulting sauce is too thick, add additional chicken stock until the sauce is smooth. Add the sausage, pork, and chicken with the remaining bouquet garni. Cover, set the heat at medium-low and allow to simmer while preheating the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for 1 hour.


Remove the casserole from the oven and reduce the oven heat to 300°F / 150°C. Remove the sausage casing from the sausages and the bones from the chicken drumsticks and return the meat to the pan. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Cover the meat and vegetables with the beans. Pour the liquid from the beans over the cassoulet. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and return to the oven uncovered. Bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours. As the top of the cassoulet crisps, press it down to allow the juices to baste over the top (about once every 20 to 30 minutes). Remove the cassoulet from the oven and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

 
 

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

total calories = 396 | total fat = 25.35g | saturated fat = 7.43g | cholesterol = 98.67mg | sodium = 1,667.42mg | net carbohydrates = 26.61g | dietary fibre = 6.87g | sugars = 3.18g | protein = 27.46g

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