Cassoulet is an incredibly rich and flavourful dish, and one of my favourites when we go to Le Select Bistro in Toronto. It’s long been an ambition of mine to make one; I went so far as to order a special cassoulet ceramic pot and eight individual bowls a number of years ago in anticipation of a magnificent creation in the traditional French style. Gotta have the right tableware, no?
A little googling turns up myriad recipes, all claiming to be the True Traditional Cassoulet. While the ingredients vary somewhat from one region to the other, the inclusion of pork is consistent, and the dish is frequently topped with duck confit. The preparation of the duck confit was the sticking point for me – procuring all that duck fat, then straining and purifying it afterwards… And the inclusion of an entire goose – seriously?? Then I came across a recipe for cassoulet made with confit chicken thighs, prepared with olive oil. Ok – that seemed a lot more achievable, and I could see myself using the olive oil for something afterwards, such as meat dishes or roasted potatoes.
An twist on an incredibly rich and flavourful dish, traditional in France.
For the Confit Chicken
- 12 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (four for another use such as salads, sandwiches)
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 3 c olive oil
For the cassoulet
- 1 lb white beans (Great Northern, Cannellini, Kidney or Navy)
- 1 lb fresh pork shoulder or loin
- 1 lb garlic sausage
- 2 tbsp olive oil (you can use the olive oil from the confit chicken)
- 2 medium yellow onions (small dice)
- 2 large stalks celery (small dice)
- 2 medium carrots (small dice)
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 c dry white wine
- 4 c combination of confit chicken juice and chicken stock
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 large bay leaf
Make the Confit Chicken
- Place the thighs, skin side down, in a 9×13″ glass or ceramic lasagne pan. Push any excess skin to the side to expose the flesh. (The recipe only needs 8, but while you’re at it, you might as well have a few extra for another use.)
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the chicken thighs. Distribute the garlic and thyme evenly over the thighs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 200 ° F
- Place the pan of chicken (minus the plastic wrap, naturally) on a rimmed baking sheet, and put it into the oven. (You will thank me for this step later, when you try to remove the chicken covered with olive oil from the oven without spilling it all over the floor, like I did. The dogs were delighted. I was less enchanted.) Carefully pour the olive oil over the thighs so they are submerged. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 8-10 hours or until sumptuously tender.
- Remove the chicken from the oven. Using tongs, remove the chicken thighs to another dish to cool. Pour the olive oil/chicken juice into a large measuring cup or bowl and chill until the fat separates. Remove the fat for another use (you can freeze it in small containers and use them for preparing other dishes). Refrigerate the chicken juices for use in the cassoulet. You will combine it with sufficient chicken stock to make 4 cups of liquid.
- Before using the chicken in the cassoulet, remove the skin and any visible fat. Gently separate the chicken from the thigh bones and tear it into large chunks. Cover and refrigerate until time to use in the cassoulet.
Make the Cassoulet
- Soak the beans in a large bowl in plenty of water overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 325 ° F.
- Cut the pork and sausage into 1″ pieces.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil from the confit chicken over medium heat. Saute the pork until nicely browned (about 8 minutes). Remove and set aside.
- Add the sausage to the fat in the pan saute until evenly browned (about 8 minutes). Remove and set aside.
- Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan and saute until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high and boil briskly until it is reduced by half.
- Add the broth, tomato paste and bay leaf to the pot. Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with the pork and sausage. Heat until the mixture just starts to bubble; do not boil.
- Place in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.
- Gently tuck in the pieces of chicken confit and bake for another 20 minutes, until chicken is heated through. The chicken will be falling apart, so be careful in stirring if you wish to retain its chunky shape. If you’re fine with it appearing like chicken chill, stir away!
- Serve in pasta or shallow soup bowls.
- I prepared the meat and vegetables in a large skillet and transferred them to the ceramic cassoulet pot. Its conical shape allows a crust to form repeatedly on the cassoulet while baking, which is pushed down into the dish to thicken it and provide its signature depth of flavour.
- Serving Size: 10