Monday, March 5, 2012
Cassoulet is French dish, and it's traditionally a peasant dish. You took whatever scraps of fatty meat that were available--usually rabbit, or duck, or lamb, or pork (or a combination thereof) as well as some sausage and simmer them with beans in red wine and water or stock for a long, long time. Some recipes call for this to be simmered for days.
(Note: never fear if you are vegetarian. There are vegetarian cassoulet dishes out there and they do look divine.)
Of course, now, rabbit is not something you can get in your average grocery store (though there is a farm near me that sells it), duck and lamb is expensive, and it is the rare person who has days to allow something to simmer in a cast iron pot. However, my trusty cookbook has a recipe for chicken and sausage cassoulet that works out very, very well. I did make a few changes to it--it calls for 8 ounces of kielbasa (I got turkey kielbasa); I used the whole one I purchased. It calls for chicken breasts and I used chicken thighs because a) that's what I had in my freezer and b) chicken thighs stay tender and do quite well in the slow cooker.
Here's the recipe (from Crockery Dinners cookbook):
3 medium carrots ,cut into 1/2 inch pieces (1 cup--I used a cup of frozen sliced carrots I had on hand in my freezer)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup--again, I have chopped onion in the freezer so I used that)
1/3 cup of water
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine or water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 15 ounce cans navy or cannelloni beans, drained
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (I used a package of skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 5 to a package)
8 ounces fully cooked Polish sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices (I used the turkey version of this, and I used the whole thing, not just the 8 ounces).
Combine carrots, onion, and water in a small saucepan, bring to boiling then reduce to simmer. Simmer for eight minutes, covered. Transfer this to the slow cooker.
Stir tomato paste, wine or water/stock, herbs and spices and bay leaves into the slow cooker with the bay leaves; add the beans. Place the chicken on top of the bean mixture and the sliced sausage on top of the chicken.
Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours or on high for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaves before serving and skim off any fat (I didn't do that because the fat is kind of the point of a cassoulet).
This dish tastes even better as leftovers, so if you eat meat, make a huge pot of it, freeze the leftovers, and enjoy for lunch the next day. Fair warning: if you eat this at work, people will ask you about it and drool.