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One of my favorite winter dishes hands down is Cassoulet. This traditional dish from Southern France, full of rich white beans, fat and chicken and/or meat, is cooked very slowly, the flavors building and melding over time. The name Cassoulet depicts the traditional casserole-like pot.
My version does not resemble the traditional Cassoulet recipe – it is certainly not as rich in flavor but it is not as time consuming to prepare either. It’s on my “favorites” list this winter though and I think if you try this you’ll agree it warms you inside and out. Served alongside a hearty seasonal salad, with crusty bread it is regularly in our lineup of comfort foods.
I don’t know the origin of my recipe except I can tell you I have tweaked it over and over so I’m sure this version is a far cry from the original formula.
Chicken “Kind of Cassoulet”
- 4 ounces turkey bacon, chopped ½ inch
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large brown skin onion, sliced in half lengthwise then into 1/8 inch semi circles
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup dry vermouth or leftover white wine
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste (remember the tube?)
- 5 large crimini mushrooms, stems removed and cut into six pie shaped slices
- ½ cup fresh tomatoes – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or larger
- 4 cups chicken broth – homemade or canned
- 3 ½ cups fresh cooked cannellini or Northern beans or 2 15-ounce cans of organic Great Northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (I use the whole branch)
- 1 4-inch branch of fresh oregano
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Salt and pepper taste (since I use salted broth I add very little salt and do so at the end)
- 3 cups leftover roasted chicken thighs, skin and bones removed. Cut into 3/4 inch chunks
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil to add at the end
Heat a 5-quart heavy pot and add about one tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped turkey bacon and sauté for about five minutes, turning and stirring at least three times. Remove the cooked turkey bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot. Add the olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt to the pot and cook until golden brown, stirring every three minutes or so, about 12 minutes total. Add the garlic and wine and simmer for about two minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and broth.
Add the beans, carrots, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Add the turkey bacon and chicken and continue simmering another three to five minutes. If the stew is thin, let it cook, uncovered for a few minutes. If it is too thick, add a bit more broth. Taste to adjust the seasoning and top with chopped parsley and an extra drizzle of olive oil when serving.
Note: Chicken thighs are preferable here so the meat doesn’t dry out. And if you eat pork bacon, by all means use it in place of turkey bacon!