Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Cassoulet with Italian Sausage and Chicken

Chicken Broth, Tomatoes, Beans
Featured Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Cherry Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans

Is there anything better on a frigid winter night than a stew? Although cassoulet sounds so much prettier, it is literally the French translation for stew. This one tastes as good as it sounds.

I pulled this recipe from my vast binder of printouts and torn magazine pages that I have collected over the years.  The end result is an adaptation of one from Real Simple magazine.  It's one of those recipes that I set aside to try, but never got around to it.  Now I'm wondering why I waited so long.  The original recipe only called for Italian Sausage. When I wrote out my grocery list, I actually misread the recipe and thought it also needed chicken.  As I recall when I made cassoulet in culinary school, there was more than one protein. So now I had to work in the chicken.

I reduced the number of beans (3 cans - or 1 can too many if you ask me) and added 1lb of chicken thighs to share the stage. This addition makes the cassoulet not too filling but doesn't leave you hungry.

Cassoulet - Serves 6 to 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian Sausage (casings removed)
1lb boneless chicken thighs, most of fat removed and cut into 2 inch stew size pieces
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 parsnips cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 15 oz. can Cherry Tomatoes undrained
2 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of black pepper
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsps unsalted butter melted

You will need a 5 1/2 quart cast iron dutch oven or a vessel that you can use on your rangetop and then put safely into the oven.

In your vessel of choice (I love my Le Creuset pot) heat oil over medium heat.  Cook the sausage until browned, breaking up into bits with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Place in a dish lined with paper towels.

In remaining oil/fat saute chicken for about 4-5 minutes to soak up sausage flavor and begin cooking process.  Do not cook through.  Remove to another plate.  Pour out any excess fat.

Add chicken broth, onion, carrots, parsnips, beans, thyme, salt, pepper,1/3 of the garlic and return sausage and chicken to pot with any remaining juices.  To borrow a line from Guy Fieri, "everybody in the pool."

Stir and scrape up any brown bits.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a slow, steady simmer. Cover and cook for about 35 minutes until vegetables are nearly tender and liquid has thickened.

Heat oven to 400F.  In a bowl combine melted butter, breadcrumbs, parsley and remaining garlic. 

(I combined it in the pot where I melted the butter.  Anywhere you can save doing a dish.) Sprinkle evenly over the cassoulet and place in the oven.

Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until crust is golden and your cassoulet is bubbly and delicious.  If you find your crust isn't browning fast enough and you don't want to over cook vegetables, put the broiler on for 1 minute or 2 to help you along.

Your final stew should be moist but not have a lot liquid leftover. The flavor of the Cassoulet marries perfectly with a glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

Winter Cassoulet with Italian Sausage and Chicken